7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker(Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. PALMER presented a petition from 83,509 adult residents of the Commonwealth, praying that Sinn Fein be declared an unlawful association, and that the members thereof be summarily dealt with.
Petition received and read.
.-(By leave). - With reference to the statements which have recently appeared in the press regarding Mrs. Tudor and myself, I would like to state that as far as the presents of jewellery to Mrs. Tudor are concerned, the statements are absolutely false and have not a single atom of truth in them. Mrs. Tudor has not received any jewellery from any one (excepting myself) for over twenty years, and the jewellery that I have given her has all been bought and paid for by me. The whole of the statements appearing in the press are a gross exaggeration and distortion of facts, and it is difficult to ‘understand how such statements could be made by any person of sound mind. I believe that Mr. Nash is unable to think and reason very clearly lately owing to the fact that certain matters of a private nature have arisen. I feel confident that any officer who was in the Customs Department whilstI was there, Mr. Lockyer, who was ComptrollerGeneral, or any of the Collectors, or any one else, will state that I never at any time asked for special treatment for any firm or business. I met Mr. Nash the first time about six to eight years ago in Sydney in connexion with rowing. I was over there, and saw the Inter-State Eight OarsRace, and met Mr. Nash, who was president of the New South Wales Rowing Association. At that time I had not the slightest idea as to what firm he was connected with, or what was the character of his business. Some time afterwards I found out that he was the Australasian manager ofWalker and
Hall. Mr. Nash was also president ofthe Australasian Football Council (Australian rules) and president of the New South Wales Football League. In 1916 I was asked by Mr. Hickey, the secretary of’ the Australasian Football Council, to meet Mr. Nash, who wished to speak to me about football matters in New South. Wales, where certain difficulties had arisen. At the luncheon Mr. Nash asked my advice in connexion with certain matters, as they had purchased a ground in New South Wales upon which to play the Australian game. The whole of the conversation at that lunch was in connexion with football and the war. I do not think anything else was mentioned. At that lunch I gave Mr. Nash certain advice, which, I understand, he followed. He subsequently invited me to another luncheon to thank me for what I had done. This was about the time . I left the Ministry, in September, 1916. The conversation again was principally on football matters, and Mr. Nash said that for the advice I had given him he would like to make me a present, but I at once declined. Mr. C. M. Hickey, who was only present at the first luncheon, has informed me that he knows nothing whatever about the statements made by Mr. Nash. On the following Christmas (three and a half months after I left the Ministry) some one (I presume it was Mr. Nash) forwarded to my two girls - one a bracelet watch and the other a chain and locket, as Christmas presents, and their value is only about one-fifth or one-sixth of the value stated in the newspaper. The whole of my connexion with Mr. Nash was regarding sport, and I am sure that no question respecting Customs matters ever cropped up.
– No one would believethe statement of Mr. Nash. I would not believe such a statement concerning the honorable member if 60,000 persons were to swear that it was true.
– Is there an arrangement between the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy and the other members ofthe Government that during the absenceof the two leaders, no important legislation shall be brought forward or considered?
– There is no such arrangement. May I say that I am unable, to-day, to answer questions without notice.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table all the papers between the shipping companies and the Australian Government connected with the chartering of vessels for the carrying of Australian wheat?
– I shall see that that is done.
– A paragraph has ap peared in the Sydney newspapers hinting that “war is close at hand” and that “seriousinformation has been received,” which has caused great alarm. Isnot this the proper place for making known any serious information which may be received?
– For obvious reasons I am unable to supply any particulars in answer to the question, and merely state that steps have been taken to deal with the matter referred to.
– Is there any truth in the rumours that are abroad ?
– I cannot say more, nor will I. No questions without notice will be answered to-day.
– The Prime Minister must have seen the cabled report of the withdrawal of Sir Hubert Gough, the General in command of the Fifth Army Corps. Much has been said and hinted about the retreat of that body. Can the right honorable gentleman tell uswhat really took place? This information is very necessary in order to let the people of Australia know exactly the position on the West Front.
– I am unable to supply the information. It has not been given to me.
– I should like the Prime Minister to answer this question
– The Prime Minister has already intimated that questions without notice cannot be answered. It will, therefore, be not in order to pursue the course of asking further questions without notice.
– What new game is this?
– Order! There is no obligation upon any Minister to answer questions without notice, and as the Prime Minister has intimated that no such questions will be answered, it would be uselessly taking up the time of the House for honorable members to insist on asking them.
– It is great discourtesy, anyway.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government has no information on this matter. If further particulars are furnished, inquiry will be made regarding the case through the -usual official channels.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in order to further encourage recruiting, the Minister will consider the desirability of allowing eligibles to enlist for special as well as general service, so that men who desire to go abroad together shall not risk being separated?
– The answer is -
The action taken re enlisting men for general service has the full concurrence and approval of General Birdwood, and has been rendered necessary owing to the fact that if recruits are allowed to choose the arm for which they will enlist, it has been found that there is a shortage of infantry reinforcements, which are most urgently required, whilst there is a surplus in other units. Every endeavour is, and will continue to be, made to insure that men who enlist and train together will be kept together when drafted as reinforcements.
Mr.FENTON asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he have inquiries made and inform the House if any year’s students are exempt from the motion of expulsion carried by the Medical Students Society?
Will he obtain the exact motion that was carried?
Was the vote by ballot or otherwise?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
– On the 19th instant the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) asked me whether, in view of the rumours as to the prevalence of red plague, the Department is taking such steps as may be necessary to isolate persons suffering from this disease who come here from oversea, to which I replied that I would make inquiries and let the House know later. I have now much pleasure in informing the honorable member that by quarantine regulation 56 venereal diseases on any vessels are compulsorily notifiable by the master of the vessel to the quarantine officer. Every case so notified is removed to the quarantine station for treatment, and there detained until cured or until replaced on the vessel when it leaves Australia. These arrangements are in force in each of the principal ports where practicable.
– On Wednesday, 10th April, I replied to several questions regarding the Engineers’ Training School asked by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). The answer to question No. 5 was not available at that time, but the particulars have now been supplied. The question was -
The answer is -
The following papers were presented: -
Audit Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 83.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 92, 93.
Entertainments Tax Assessment Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 84, 96.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 95.
Northern Territory- Ordinances of 1918 - No. 4. - Darwin Pound.
No. 5. - Plant Diseases.
No. 6. - Liquor.
No. 7. - Oyster Culture Leases.
The War - National Relief Fund - Report on the Administration of, up to 30th September, 1917 - (Paper presented to the British Parliament. )
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1918, No. 91.
War-time Profits . Tax Assessment Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 82.
Debate resumed from 19th April (vide page 4082), on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook -
That the paper be printed.
.-I move -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “but in the opinion of this House the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook) cannot represent Australian public opinion in London, for the following reasons, viz.: -
The speeches of the Prime Minister at and in relation to the Paris Conference;
the war policy of Ministers has been emphatically repudiated by two referendums of the Australian people;
the conduct of public affairs in Australia.
The Ministerial statement, in one of its earlier paragraphs, says -
It will be within the knowledge of honorable members that the British Government have asked representatives of the Dominions to meet in London at an early date. The Government feels that at this critical juncture Australia must be represented thereat. The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy will represent the Commonwealth.
Seeing that a question, which the Government have described as the most important which has ever been submitted to the people of Australia, has twice been turned down by overwhelming majorities, I do not think that any one can say that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) can represent Australian public opinion at an Imperial Conference. For that reason I have submitted this amendment. It will give honorable members an opportunity of voting on the matter, and give the public outside an- opportunity of noting how honorable members vote upon it.
Ministerial Members. - Hear, hear!
– Personally I have nothing against any honorable member in this House; politically I have. Politically I would do to honorable members as they would do to rae - that is, do my best to put them out of office. No one can claim that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy represent Australian public opinion. It is true, as an honorable member interjects, that the Government secured a majority at the last election, but that majority was wiped out on the 20th December last. The resolutions carried at the Paris Conference have done more to prolong the war than anything else that has occurred during the war. The Prime Minister’s speeches at that Conference did not represent Australian opinion, nor does the Prime Minister represent Australian public opinion to-day. I hope that my amendment will be carried, so that the people outside will realize that honorable members are awake to their responsibilities, and do not desire to permit two Ministers who are entirely out of touch with Australian opinion to represent them at the forthcoming Imperial Conference. During last week we heard honorable mem- - bers on the Ministerial side of the Chamber giving reasons why the present Ministry should no longer remain in office, though not necessarily for the purpose of “ putting the Labour party there. I do not want honorable members to imagine for one moment that the Labour party are anxious to go to the other side of the chamber, nor do I wish it to be understood that I am claiming that any honorable member of the/ Opposition should be sent to the Imperial Confer ence instead of the Prime Minister, although I can claim that honorable members on this side more accurately represent public opinion than does the Prime Minister, if we are to accept the verdict given by the people on the last great question submitted to them.
– On one question.
– Yes; but that was on a question which the Government said was more vital than any other could be. They said that if it was turned down they would not remain in office. They are still in office, though they know better than others do that they do not represent Australian public opinion - not only on the question of conscription, but on many other matters as well. Can any honorable member say that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy do represent the whole of Australian public opinion ? Can any one say that any honorable member sitting on the Ministerial side represents the whole of Australian public opinion?
– Can any honorable member of the Opposition say that he does?
– Honorable members of the Opposition represent a majority in so far as the last great question which was submitted to the people is concerned, and that is more than any honorable member on the Ministerial side oan claim. A vital part of the Ministerial policy was turned down by 160,000 votes, and by four States out of six. The Prime Minister knows quite well that he cannot claim to represent the Labour party at the Imperial Conference.
– Is there to be an Imperial Conference?
– The Ministerial statement informs us that the British Government have asked .representatives of the Dominions to meet in London at an early date, and that> the Government feel that at this critical juncture Australia must be represented. I remember, on another occasion, when a Prime Minister, whom I was supporting, was going away from Australia, the howl there was in the papers about Ministers going away and taking retinues with them, and because some of them took their wives with them. By the way, they received no extra allowance on that account, and I presume that they had to pay for their wives out of their own pockets. However, that was in peace time. Let honorable members see how many officers will be accompanying the Prime Minister and the Minister f or the Navy when they leave to-morrow. We are informed by the press that they are to leave immediately. Will those gentlemen who are howlers for economy denounce the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy for taking a great number of officials with them? I can imagine the large-minded individual from Echuca (Mr. Palmer) swallowing the great number of officials who will accompany a Prime Minister whom he is supporting, notwithstanding the fact that he raised objections when a number of officials accompanied a Prime Minister whom he was opposing.
I wish to get on with some of the other matters that are dealt with in the Ministerial statement. I endeavour to tell the truth; I do not say, as was said at Wesley Church on Sunday afternoon last, that every honorable member in the Labour party voted against a certain motion when it is well known that they voted for an amendment to that motion, and not against the motion itself. When honorable members deliberately go out of their way to make misstatements concerning actions of honorable members on this side, we have a right to mention them when the opportunity presents itself.
– There was a great deal of dissent at that meeting, I noticed.
– Perhaps it was known that the members of this party had not voted against the motion. The party did try to obtain an amendment, but were not successful ; and, as the records prove, not one member voted against the motion proposed by the Prime Minister. I presume that under similar circumstances we would again endeavour to obtain an amendment more agreeable to our own way of thinking, and should we fail, it would not follow that we must vote against the motion. If, personally, I prefer an amendment, and fail to obtain it, I am at liberty to vote for the motion as the next best thing. As is well known, the resolution was carried on the voices.
The Ministerial statement tells us that the ex-Treasurer (Lord Forrest) was obliged to resign office owing to serious indisposition; and, if that be the reason, I can say, speaking for myself, and, I think, for every honorable member on this side, that we deeply regret the fact.
No member of this House is held in greater esteem by members on this side than is the ex-Treasurer. The Ministerial statement, however, congratulates the right honorable gentleman on the ‘ signal honour bestowed upon him by His Majesty the King in recognition of a long and distinguished public career.”
– That was after he had been kicked out of the Ministry.
– After the right honorable gentleman had got out of the Ministry somehow. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) has told us that the right honorable gentleman was ‘ hunted out ‘ ‘ ; and I suppose he knows better than I do what are the facts.
– He was a little more splenetic than you are.
– Whether that be so or not, the strictures of the honorable member for Perth were possibly deserved by many honorable members opposite. Personally, I cannot congratulate the exTreasurer on his obtaining the title recently bestowed upon him. There is no man, as I say, whom I hold in higher esteem as a public opponent; but I object to titles, particularly hereditary titles; and we in this democratic country of Australia ought to set our face against them. Honorable members on this side are prepared to congratulate the right honorable gentleman so far as he is individually concerned, but we object to titles in the Commonwealth. I feel sure that the exTreasurer will take this criticism in the spirit in which it is offered.
We are also told in the Ministerial statement that one Ministerial vacancy has been filled and three new Ministers appointed. If this sort of thing goes on, we shall soon be in a position to obtain a football team with umpires complete, from the Ministerial ranks.
– There are some people in this place whom we could use for a football.
– Quite possibly. Doubtless, some honorable members would be more successful as a football than in any other capacity; and I need not point out honorable members opposite who would be found most useful in that way. We are told by the Prime Minister that the new appointments will involve no extra cost to the Commonwealth; and, indeed, they could not without the consent of
Parliament. I voted for the appointment of a salaried Minister for Repatriation, believing it to.be necessary to have a paid Minister in that office; and I would take the same step again, because no portfolio will call for the devotion of more time and ability. . But I do not wish the Ministry to think for a moment that they may create as many paid Ministers as they choose, because I should refuse to vote for any extra salaries. This, of course, the Government are not seeking to do, but in their statement they make a virtue of their abstention.
– They have a Ministerial Pool.
– That is so; it is no longer a secret that the remuneration of the extra Ministers comes out of the salaries of their colleagues.
What I regard as the most important feature of the Ministerial statement is the appeal for greater unity. The paragraph referring to this is as follows: -
In the face of the common danger, it is not too much to hope that the people of all parts of the Empire - including this Commonwealth - will present a united and unwavering front. Only in such unity can safety be found. The Government invites, and will do everything within its power to promote, this vital national solidarity.
The result of the Conference held at Government House over the whole of last week, and two days of the previous week, is now within the knowledge of honorable members. My invitation to that Conference was by telegraph, and informed me that the object was to obtain harmony in this great crisis. Before the Conference, I met the whole of the representatives of Labour who had been also invited. Although the responsibility was upon the Government, they advanced not a single suggestion for the promotion of the desired harmony - not one single suggestion was made by any representative of the Government, any representative of the State Governments, or any representative of the Employers’ Federation, at that Conference. When I realized that the Government had no suggestion to make, I, on behalf of the Labour representatives, of whom I was the leader by virtue of my position in this House, laid before the Conference certain suggestions dealing with what we believed to be obstacles in the way of obtaining harmony. The report of the Conference will be available to-morrow, but a condensation of it appears in the press to-day; and I should like to place on the records of the House the suggestions of the Labour representatives. These were as follows: -
That this meeting, recognising the urgent necessity for the restoration of harmony amongst all sections of the community in order that Australia may discharge its duty during the present grave crisis, agrees that the following are vital conditions to secure this end: -
That there should be a definite pronouncement By the Government that conscription has been finally abandoned.
That there should be no economic conscription in public or in private employ.
Re-registration of unions de-registered and restoration to unions of their former status. Restoration to their employment of victimized unionists, abolition of bogus unions and bureaux set up in connexion therewith. 4. (a) Repeal of all War Precautions Regulations not vital to the conduct of the war and a Government guarantee against their reenactment.
Abolition of press censorship and limitations upon free speech except as relating to military news of advantage to the enemy.
Cessation of political and industrial prosecutions under the War Precautions Act.
The immediate release of all persons - not guilty of criminal offences - imprisoned in connexion with conscription, peace propaganda, recruiting and the recent industrial troubles.
Refund of fines and costs in connexion with all industrial and political prosecutions during the war period.
That immediate and effective steps be taken to protect soldiers’ dependants and the public generally against profiteering.
I stated plainly that I did not go to the Conference in any bargaining spirit or with the intention of saying, “You must concede these things or I shall not assist in recruiting.” And no other Labour representatives made any such conditions. But I and others pointed out these things as obstacles to recruiting and to the re-establishment of harmony in the community, and I said that the time had arrived for action by the people who had created those obstacles. These troubles date back to September, 1916, when the first conscription referendum was held, and they must be removed if harmony is to prevail in the community. We cannot achieve that end by any pretence that they will be removed, because the people .outside must be convinced that their undoubted grievances no longer exist. I am not much concerned about any resolution carried at the Conference. Those who were present at the Conference know that from the outset I said distinctly that, in my opinion, no resolution would do any good, that this was not a time for resolutions but for action. Has not the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) given illustrations of victimization in which the sufferers have been men who have sent their only sons to the Front? I desire to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the case of a man who enlisted from the Postal Department, and on coming back to Australia after two years’ service resumed duty on the 10th January last. That man had lost £252 in earnings, representing the difference between his departmental salary and his military pay. But he was told on resuming duty that he would be required to refund the insurance that had been paid by the Department on his behalf, and that he would not be granted any leave this year. It is cases of this kind that are responsible for the lack of harmony in the community.
– There are so many coldfooters at the head of the Departments.
– This is not the way to warm people up. Much as the honorable member and I disagree with regard to many things, he will agree that it is not right that a man who has served at .the Front for two years should be treated in the manner I have related. I shall give to the Postmaster-General the facts of this case, and if he is prepared to justify that treatment he cannot be sincere in his desire to stimulate recruiting. “We have received assurances from the Prime Minister and private employers that the obstacles we have mentioned will be removed, but the obtaining of harmony in the community will depend on the manner in which those promises are carried out. It ls harmony that I am most anxious to obtain, and I do not think we can get it while people who are in favour of only one system of obtaining reinforcements by their action prevent the best results being obtained.
In this Ministerial statement we are told that the Government propose to establish a Council of Defence, a Finance Council, and State Councils in connexion with Repatriation. Do the Government think that the workers of the community are not entitled to be represented on any of these bodies? Is it not fair that the Labour party, representing nearly 1,200,000 of the voters in the last referendum, should have representation on any of these Councils? Are all the brains in Australia covered up when honorable members on the Ministerial benches put on their hats? Is no honorable member on this side, or no persons outside the House who support us, to receive consideration simply because they belong to the party in Opposition? Are the workers to be entirely ignored? I am astonished to read the following paragraph in reference to price fixing : -
Council of Trade and Commerce. - In connexion witu the vast administrative duties cast upon the Government, owing to the war, in connexion with commercial matters - such asthe wheat, wool, and butter pools, metals, the sugar crop, price fixing, &c. - it has been decided to transfer these to the Department of Trade and Customs.
In connexion with this Department, the Govern ment proposes to avail itself of the patriotic offer of the Chambers of Commerce to place at its disposal some first class business men, to be representatives on a council which will assist the Minister and Assistant Ministers. ‘
Paney selecting members of the Chamber of Commerce to assist in price-fixing! I understand that the Honorary Minister (Mr. Massy Greene) is to be in charge of the Butter Pool. I had a little to do with butter while I was in charge’ of the Customs Department, and I remember the pressure brought to bear upon me by the butter merchants and others who desired to ship butter out of Australia in order to inflate local prices. We are told that we who represent the workers are not worthy of a place on any of these committees; but this Council of Trade and Commerce will presumably comprise the Minister for Trade and Customs, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, the Honorary Minister (Mr. Massy Greene), and there is representation for the Chamber of Commerce. Are the workers to be represented ? No. Are the consumers to be represented? Certainly not. But there is representation for the Chamber of Commerce, whose interest will lie, not in decreasing prices, but in increasing them all the time. If this proposal represents all the Government are prepared to do in the matter of price-fixing they are absolutely failing. The Prime Minister said at the Conference in reference to profiteering -
In this connexion we desire to say that the Government has given, and will continue to give, every attention to this matter, the vital importance of which is fully recognised, and it will welcome any practical suggestion from the Conference to this end.
One practical suggestion I offer is that the consumers shall be given at least as much representation as the Chamber of Commerce on any Price-fixing Board. Surely the people who have to pay for the commodities are as much interested in price-fixing as are those who wish to inflate prices. With all duerespect to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Massy Greene), I say that he cannot represent the consumers of Australia in regard to the fixation of butter prices, for he is elected by the largest butter-producing district in Australia. The representatives of the butter trade told me hundreds of times, when I was Minister for Trade and Customs, that I could not represent the producers, and I say that the honorable member for Richmond is not more able to represent the consumers than I was to represent the producers. Apparently the best qualification for membership of any of these committees or councils is to be a prominent official of the Nationalist party. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is a member of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. The secretary of the Nationalist party, Mr. HumeCook, is another member of the Bureau, but no workers have been appointed to it. There is not a single representative of the workers connected with it. The Nationalist party apparently intend to keep the Bureau of Science and Industry entirely in their own hands, and to keep all representatives of the workers off it. I feel confident that the Prime Minister will admit that up to the present the Bureau of Science and Industry has not justified its establishment. It cannot show anything for the large amount of money and labour spent upon it.
– If that be so - and I do not agree with the honorable gentleman’s statement - it is the fault of the scientists.
– I say that I do not know of a single thing that has been done by the Bureau.
– The honorable gentleman is doing the Bureau a gross injustice in saying that.
– If it is satisfactory, why re-organize it ?
– We are not going to re-organize it. We are going to do what we agreed to do when the honorable gentleman was a member of my Government, namely, to make it permanent.
– I was a member of the same Government as the Prime Minister. I do not know that any individual member of that Government had a right to speak of it as “my” Government. Although I was a member of a Government of which the honorable gentleman was Prime Minister, he “will admit that members of the same Government sometimes disagreed.
– Not on that point.
– We disagreed on some matters. The right honorable gentleman has had a year and eight months’ experience of the Bureau of Science and Industry since I left the Government. It appears from the Ministerial statement that the Bureau is to be re-organized.
– The honorable gentleman is quite wrong. Where is that stated?
– Speaking of the commercial and industrial problems in the solution of which the industrialists of the Commonwealth are apparently to be absolutely ignored, though the Chambers of Manufactures, Chambers of Commerce, and Employers Federation can secure ample representation on the various Boards appointed to deal with them, the Ministerial statement says -
The Government have been met in a broadminded and patriotic spirit by these bodies, and, after full discussion, the main principles of the scheme have been approved. They involve the complete organization of all industries, primary and secondary, into associations, which will send representatives to a General Council of Commerce and Industry, and the Science and Industry Bureau will be thoroughly equipped and re-staffed, to be at the disposal of this organization.
I candidly admit that I understood that what was proposed was that the Bureau of Science and Industry was to be reorganized. It appears, however, that the staff is to be entirely altered. I wish to say here that if the Bureau of Science and Industry is to be merely an appendix to any or all of our universities, a very big mistake will be made. I deliberately expressed that view in another place, and I am more emphatic to-day in my views on that point than I was oyer twenty months ago, before I left the Ministry. The Bureau must not become a mere appendix to any or all of our universities. It must do practical and independent work or it will be of no use at all.
Mr. Archibald. Every school boy knows that.
– I did not think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh knew it.
– Because you judge every one else by your own ignorance.
– The Bureau of Science and Industry has been dominated by professors of the University.
– I am against that. I trust that honorable members generally will seriously consider the position I have placed before them. First of’ all, I contend that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy do not represent public opinion in Australia to-day, since their most vital war proposal has been twice turned down by the people. In the second place, it is necessary, in order to secure harmony in the community, that the obstacles to it to which I have referred shall be removed ; and, in the third place, if the Government intend to continue to do as they have been doing, and ignore the workers in the appointment of various Committees, their action, will not tend to harmony, or to our obtaining the best service from the Australian public in the solution of the great problems with which we must grapple, not only now, but in the future.
. - We have heard from the Leader of the Opposition a speech to which, in some respects, I take no exception. The honorable gentleman is a man whose disposition ig by nature so kindly that it is with difficulty that he makes any remarks that are offensive, or even irritating, to his opponents. But he has, in fact, moved a vote of censure on the Government, and has done so for the reasons that he has set out.
The first thing I have to say is that t do sincerely regret that he has taken thi course. I say so because we have been sitting in another place for some eight or nine days discussing how we were to work together for the common weal. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), as he has stated, put forward some suggestions which, in his opinion, would promote harmony between the different sections in Australia. Speaking with their authorization and on behalf of the Federal Government and of the Governments of the States, with the exception of the Government of Queensland, I set forth at the Recruiting Conference what were the views of the various State Governments and the Commonwealth’ Government in regard to those suggestions. The honorable gentleman has stated the points in the course of his speech, and I will not repeat them; but I refer honorable members to the report of the proceedings of the Recruiting Conference, which will shortly be available to them. It will be found to set out clearly the attitude of the State and Federal Governments howards the suggestions submitted by my honorable friend and his colleagues. While we did not admit that all or any of the matters which he mentioned were responsible for the lack of harmony, we were prepared to meet our friends because we sincerely desired the co-operation of Labour, without .which I say now, as I said at the Recruiting Conference, it is utterly futile to expect that response to the appeal iu support of voluntary recruiting which we so earnestly desire, and which we must have as a nation struggling now in the final round of this desperate conflict. Because it was desirable above all things to secure their cordial and complete co-operation the Governments of the States and the Commonwealth were prepared to meet them. When honorable members generally have an opportunity of , learning what was conceded, they will agree that we went a very great way indeed to meet our friends .opposite. We took upon ourselves, responsibilities which we were not authorized to take by those whom we represented at the Conference. The State Government of New South Wales, for example, felt very strongly - and I do not propose to argue the merits of the question - about the late great strike, in that State, in connexion with which they had introduced legislation to de-register certain unions and punish them for striking in time of war -which they conceived to be an act incompatible with that spirit of loyalty which, at this time of all others, should actuate every citizen. They de-registered certain unions. As to that, I need say no more ; but I shall never say that the fault is always on one side in matters such as these. The point is that the Government of NewSouthWales have now said that they axe prepared, in order to secure the cordial and complete co-operation of Labour, to repeal that Act, to place the unions where they were before, to make no distinction whatever between one man and another, to have no victimization, and to restore everybody and everything to the status quo, except in so far as preference to unionists is concerned.
As for the Federal Government, I declared that we would do, so far as in us lay, everything that was necessary to support that action. And, speaking also on behalf of the employers - as I was authorized to do - I said that the Employers Federation would also use’ their efforts with every employer to endeavour to put men back to their former status, and to impose no embargo on the employment of those unionists who are now precluded from employment. The condition which existed in Sydney, last week, at any rate, was that men were, by reason of merely being members of the old Coal Lumpers Union, or of my old union, precluded from employment. All this was arranged on the distinct understanding that there should be given the complete and cordial co-operation of organized Labour.
With regard to economic conscription, we said, without reservation, that we would have none of it, as a Government; and we were able to say, on behalf of the employers, that the Employers Federation would use its influence to prevent economic conscription on the part of any private firm.
In the matter of censorship, we were prepared to insure freedom of speech on all matters not relating directly to the war, the Allies, and recruiting. And I said, last of all, that I would be prepared to do something further in realization of the fact that a great deal of the real trouble had arisen, not because of the regulations, but owing to their administration. I want to remark that if I had been on the other side I might have said things about the censor even more effective than I have heard from my friends opposite. But this is what I was about to state: I propose to create a tribunal on which Labour shall be represented. There Shall be one representative of Labour, one representative of the Government, and an impartial chairman, mutually agreed upon; and, if they cannot agree, then there shall be a Judge, and he is to decide in all hard cases. We met them there. We agreed that we would not use the War Precautions Regulations for political purposes, and I spoke, of course, on behalf ofthe State and Federal Governments.
In regard to conscription, I repeated what I had said at the show luncheon at the Agricultural Society’s Grounds in Sydney, during Easter. As far as I can recall them, those words were: “ Conscription has been rejected by the people. Good! The Government accept that verdict and call upon citizens to help the Government to secure recruits.”
-Here it is. Read it from this copy of the report of the Conference.
– The exact words are as follow: -
The people have decided that there shall be no compulsion in recruiting. Good! The Government will accept that. But the Government calls upon every citizen to do everything within his power to give effect to the policy that alone remains. Voluntarism has been nailed to the mast. Let it be so; but let us have no hypocritical humbug about it. Let every citizen do his utmost to make voluntarism a success. So much we owe to our country, to our soldiers, and to those who have died, to those who to-day rush into the jaws of death.
That is the policy of the Government, and it clearly sets out our views regarding conscription. That was the attitude of the Government at the Conference last week. We put these things forward, and presented our concessions upon the distinct understanding that organized Labour would do everything within its power to make voluntarism a success. We asked the gentlemen representing Labour there to pledge themselves to do it, to go back to their organizations and urge them to do it.
They declined. Very well. All that we said that was contingent upon Labour doing these things, so far as our undertaking is concerned, falls to the ground. I want to say, on behalf of the Federal Government, however, that we shall do what we said we would do, though Labour shall do nothing. All those pledges and undertakings that I made there we shall carry out in the spirit and to the letter; and never mind whether Labour does anything or not.
– So you ought to.
– I look to the other side, though, to use their great influence with the Labour organizations, to arouse them to <a sense of the . danger in which Australia stands to-day. I was asked a question to-day by an honorable member, and I was unable to give him the full and detailed answer which he desired, about the present phase of the war. But the war has reached these very shores, it is true, in a very mild and - let us hope - innocuous form. But it is here.
– Well, tell us about it.
– But “ over there “ today, although there is a lull for the moment,, our fate is undecided. And yet the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), after our week’s effort to arrive at a modus vivendi, comes to this House and moves a vote of censure. He declares that my colleague (the Minister for the Navy) and myself are not fit to represent Australia. When the history of all these days that have come and gone since August, 1914, is written, we shall be weighed by those who care to read that history, and it will then be found who it was that really represented Australia and her best interests - whether others do or f do, whether those opposite do, or those who have stood with me. Will any honorable member say now, even after all the things that have happened with regard to myself, that there is any one of them over there having a better record with regard to Labour than If There are some honorable members sitting opposite who criticise me who themselves have done nothing for Labour. There are some men still in the Labour ranks to-day who were there when certain honorable members opposite were in their swaddling clothes, and it is the friendship of those ‘men that I still retain. The men who are fighting me to-day are not those who came with me through the wilderness and fought for Labour in those early days, but are those who have climbed on the back of Labour when the cause of Labour was securer However, I pass that, and say that it my colleague and I are not able to represent Australia at the forthcoming Imperial Conference, then no two men ii Australia are.
My honorable friend, the Leader pf thi1 Opposition (Mr. Tudor), cited my’ attitude at the Paris Economic Conference ai one of the reasons why I should not repre] sent Australia. Now, sir, it is perfectly clear that the honorable member does not understand the scope and object of the’ resolutions of that Conference. Why, sir, if there is one thing I glory in more than - anything else it is the part I took at that Conference. In what way do we make war? When I make war, it is war to the death; and I say that the only way to deal with those who are trying to grind us into economic slavery is to fight them in the spirit in which they attack us. In ten years’ time this country would have been the economic vassal of Germany, just as Russia is today. The price which Russia has to pay for peace with Germany is the agreement that Germany shall control the economic destiny of that great country. Surely no man worthy of the name would support any peace terms which would place Australia in that position? Would even my honorable friend the member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) vote for a peace that handed over the economic destiny of Australia to the Germans? Never. I will never believe it of him. In this great war, “whether in the economic field or on the field of battle, I am sure that all true Australians are and will remain against Germany to the end; and if for me there be no other end but death, then I am for that end too.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) poses as a disciple of peace ; but we heard to-day the first tinkle in a slogan, of war of another kind, and there was then very little evidence of the pacifist in- him. I am in this war because I believe in it heart and soul. Honorable members may jeer at me if they like ; but I am no Jingo, and I have proved, by my twenty-five years of earnest work for Labour, that I am no recent convert to National defence. On tha contrary, I waa the first man to stand up in this House in defence of that prin- nciple. Indeed, I laid the foundation-stone of our system of National defence, at a time, too, when many men on my own side were opposed to me. In 1908 I declared that Germany was preparing for the great attack upon freedom she is now making. My right honorable friend, Sir George Reid, who was then the member for East Sydney, ridiculed the suggestion. But the war is here. At this very hour the enemy is thundering at the gates of the citadel, and if we would live as free men we must fight. In this hour of our danger, therefore, I appeal to honorable members, and through them to the people of Australia, to unite.
I shall say nothing further by way of reply to the charge that I am not fit to represent Australia, except that my life’s work is the answer. I invite those who say I am not fit to represent Australia to place their finger upon1 anything I have done - excepting in this matter of conscription, to which I committed myself, because, in the hour of my country’s danger, there seemed no other means of getting that support necessary for victory - to justify their charge. As for other things, what have I done? I have endeavoured to rouse the people of Australia to a sense of their duty. Does the honorable member venture to suggest that the war aims of the people of Australia are reflected. by the pacifist resolutions passed by the Conference of the Labour party? The Leader of the Opposition says the people have twice repudiated the war policy of this Government. That is untrue. I can answer that charge very shortly. I know what the feeling of the people of Australia is in regard to this war. They “> are prepared to see it out to the bitter end, and it is that view I propose to represent in London.
I remind the House that, during the first referendum, members who are at present sitting on the Opposition side of the House came to me and asked me to retain office.
– Name them.
– I deny it for one.
– There is one of them, the honorable member for Capricornia. I could point to a dozen. Why, sir, everybody knows that at that fateful meeting, which I and those who came with me, left, an amendment was moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), which, had I accepted it, would have kept me in the position I then occupied in the party. They cannot deny that.
– We do deny it.
– I remind honorable members also that when my predecessor, Mr. Fisher, went to London he left me to carry on the referendum campaign, and wished me God-speed in the undertaking. We were beaten, but there was not one suggestion from my friends opposite that Mr Fisher and we, his colleagues, had forfeited the confidence of the people. I remember also that my distinguished leader at about that time indicated that he would do something that would make the people of Australia fall down with fright !’ We were defeated in the 1916 referendum by a narrow majority, but we went to the country subsequently and were returned to power on a war policy approved of by the largest majority ever given to any party in the history of Australia. That war policy included the policy of voluntarism. In our manifesto to the people, we said -
The people of Australia have’ decided that they will not resort to compulsion to fill the ranks of the Australian divisions at the front. The Government accept the verdict of the people as given on 28th October last. It will not enforce, nor attempt to enforce, conscription, either by regulation or statute, during the life of the forthcoming Parliament. If. however, national safety demands lt, the question will again be referred to the people.
We were elected upon that policy. We pledged ourselves not to introduce conscription behind the backs of the people; and so on a subsequent occasion we appealed to them again. On our war policy this Government received the most emphatic indorsement ever given to any Ministry in the history of the Commonwealth.
My honorable friend saw fit to mak« some remarks about my honorable and distinguished friend, Lord Forrest. I think that his words were in very poor taste. I wish only to say that if he had approached this matter with that due sense of what was demanded of him as Leader of the Opposition at this time of desperate crisis, he would not have said what he did. It was unworthy of him. There was not a word of truth in his insinuation, and it was a most unworthy utterance.
My honorable friend also said that we have created new offices - that we have appointed a number of ‘new Ministers. As a matter of fact, we have appointed only one more Minister than there would have been previously, having regard to the absence of my colleague, the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook), and myself.
When we go, my honorable colleague, the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), will act as Prime Minister, and I ask this House and the country to give him that support which, it has lent to me. I feel perfectly confident that he will carry on the business of this country and of this Parliament in a manner, which will redound to his credit and to the benefit of the whole community.
I repeat that the Leader of the Opposition has stated that we have appointed many new Ministers. But I would remind him of a fateful occurrence in another place when it was decided that there should be only a certain number of Ministers ; but, when owing to a difficulty in deciding who was to be the last one - there was a tie - we decided to put both members into office. My honorable friend was one of the two. He and myself now differ. That cannot be helped. But I feel I should be unworthy of my position if I did not take this opportunity of saying that, not only, do I accept his statement as applied to the ridiculously absurd charge which was recently published in the newspapers, but also that the opinion which I hold of him now - and that I have always held of him - is of the highest possible kind. I do not believe there is enough money in the world to buy him.
I come now to the Councils of which my honorable friend has spoken. We endeavour to ‘carry on this Govern- ment as best we can, but in our efforts in that direction we do not get very much assistance from “him. I would be very glad indeed to avail myself of the services of honorable gentlemen representing Labour organizations, but when I invite them to meet me, and they do meet me, they are censured by their associations for having done so. Not long ago I invited three representatives of the Trades and Labour Council of Victoria to meet me to discuss the Industrial Arbitration Act - a very proper thing for me to do. We discussed it in all amity. The next thing I heard was that these gentlemen had been rapped over the knuckles for hav- ing dared to meet me. I would remind the Leader of the Opposition, too, that Labour was invited to meet us in conference to consider the formation of a Bureau of Commerce and Industry. Its representatives came, sat there a few minutes, and then went away; neither lending us the benefit of their advice nor offering us that assistance to which we were entitled. They acted thus, notwithstanding that I had previously pointed out in my public addresses that without the co-operation of Labour the movement could not be a success, and that Labour itself has, at least, as much to gain from the organization of industry, if not more, than has capital. We shall be confronted in the time of demobilization after the war with problems such as organization alone can solve. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) and myself are old opponents industrially, but I know that he has at heart the interests of the men whom he represents, and I “am sure he will be interested to learn - as was stated in tEe newspapers this morning - that we have just sold practically the whole of the Australian output of zinc during the next ten years. That has been done by organization. The ideal condition of things would be to sell advantageously the whole of our primary products in the foreign market. That would be a very good thing indeed for Labour, and if we could so improve and develop the manufacturing industries of Australia as to provide employment for the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who will return to our shores when the war is over, when the era of borrowed money has ceased, and when we come down with a dull crash to the realities, that also would be a very good thing for every one. So far from saying in regard to our plans for organization that Labour shall not enter here, I say in all earnestness to its representatives, “ Come along and give us a hand.” We asked its representatives at the Conference the other day to go out to their organizations and urge them to help recruiting - to sound the tocsin, to tell them the truth - that Australia is in danger - and that, this was no time to talk about the minor interests of Labour or Nationalism. Yet they hesitated to do so. I said to them then - and I say now in all earnestness, “What is it that has come over the Labour movement? Why does it not stand up straight? Of what is it afraid? What has invaded it? What has emasculated that virile spirit that has carried it triumphantly to victory during the last quarter of a century?” There was a time when Labour cared for nothing; when it ignored the attempts of the wealthy to defeat it. But now it walks as if it were afraid. Above all, my honorable friends opposite are afraid to go into their organizations and tell them the truth. Yet those organizations ought to be told the truth, because they would be the first to condemn their representatives if the latter did not tell them.it. The position in Australiato-day - I will not say it is desperate, because I do not wish to be charged with exaggeration -but I say it is so grave that any man who does not now act, who does not put aside all other things so that he may do his best for his country, is indeed a traitor or a decadent. He is unworthy to be called an Australian. I know that my honorable friends opposite are not unworthy. They are Australians. We differ upon many subjects. There is room in regard to many matters of ordinary concern for an honest difference of opinion. I say, further, that all those things which the Government have promised to do they will do, whether my honorable friends do their part or not. But I appeal to them to act in this hour of crisis as men, and as Australian citizens. Let them go out and tell their fellow countrymen the truth, and urge them to act. By so doing, notwithstanding any present criticism which may be showered upon them, they will earn the lasting approval of their fellows. I have nothing more to say. It may be that I shall not have an opportunity of speaking to this House again for some time, but, at any rate, I shall endeavour-
– Before he concludes, will the right honorable gentleman make the statement that he promised to make a week ago in ref erence to Mining Boards ?
– I have saidthat my statement is a general one. I am prepared to put things back where they were. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am speaking now generally, and without reservation or qualification of any sort. I can quite understand that there are employers over whom we have no control; but, so far as the Government can put the men back where they were, we shall do so. Wherever we have the power to put things as they were we shall. My right honorable colleague, Mr. Cook, has reminded me that Mr. Beeby said at the Recruiting Conference that the New South Wales Government would clear up the other part of this matter. The State Government of New South Wales and ourselves, acting together, I think, are able to do everything that the honorable member wants.
– There is still another matter upon which the Prime Minister has not touched. Last week he promised, in reply to a question put by me, that he would let us know whether he would reconstruct the Board which was dealing with mining disputes.
– Whatever I said I would do, I will do. I will endeavour, through my honorable colleague, the Treasurer, to have that done. The Government have considered the matter, and propose, without reservation or qualification, to carry out the pledges we made at the Conference. We will endeavour to put the coal position right.
I want only to say now that I shall endeavour, while away, to represent Australia. I cannot please everybody, but I shall endeavour to represent Australia fairly and honorably. And all that I ask of honorable members opposite is that they will now approach every question saturated with the spirit of toleration and with a sincere desire for unity. It is in that spirit that the Government themselves are now approaching all questions. It is in that spirit that I now appeal to the Opposition, and I feel very certain that I shall not appeal in vain.
Sitting suspended from4.35 to 5 p.m.
.- The Prime Minister, in the speech which he delivered just before he left, made some remarks about me which I did not catch, but I have been informed that he suggested that I was a conscriptionist, and that I wished to keep him in power. I have correspondence whichshows my attitude on the question of conscription. At this stage I shall not deal with the circumstances of the conscription referendum, my, connexion with the Hughes Cabinet, and my retirement from it, and the breaking up of the party, because it would take too long. Let me say, briefly, that on the return of the Prime Minister from England I wrote to him saying that, in my opinion, if he introduced conscription, he would smash up the Labour party. I endeavoured to keep the party together, knowing what a split would mean; and, unhappily, events proved me to be a true prophet. When the Prime Minister introduced the regulations to, as he termed it, “ give the shirkers the shock of their lives, at the ballot-box,’’ I, together with Senator Gardiner and Senator Russell, left his Ministry. I think that, in my own defence, it will be necessary on some occasion during the life of this Parliament to tell the whole story of that episode. I am satisfied that when I have done so the public will sympathize with me for the position in which I was placed when, as an anti-conscriptionist, I remained in the Hughes Cabinet.
We have had to-day an illustration of the Prime Minister’s methods. He has left to attend a very important Conference in which he will speak on behalf of Australia, or claim so to speak, but he has given the House no opportunity to express an opinion about the representation of Australia there, nor has he told us what subjects are likely to be discussed. All he did was to make a speech bid goodbye to his colleagues, and go. I wish to know why the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy have gone to England. Surely it is not to tell the British Government how to win the war, because they have made a terrible bungle of the administration of the affairs of this country. The Prime Minister cannot claim to represent any party, not even his own. I do not suppose that there is a member opposite who is prepared to trust him.
– That is too bad.
– I am, for one.
– I would trust him rather than the honorable member.
– It is common rumour that hardly any member of the Winthewar party trusts the Prime Minister, the usual remark being, “ What a pity that such a clever man should be such an intriguer; what a pity that we cannot rely upon his word.” To show that the right honorable gentleman does not represent the National party - the Win-the-war party - let me read the terms of this v motion proposed by Mr. R. Olive Teece, of the Rose Bay branch of the National Association of New South Wales-r- “ That this meeting of the National Council, consisting of representatives from all parts of New South Wales, desires to express its conviction that the interests of the Commonwealth in general, and of the National party in particular, require the resignation or removal of Mr. Hughes from his position as Prime Minister and Leader of the party.”
Before the notice of motion was reached, the meeting was addressed at considerable length by the Premier (Mr. Holman), who severely criticised the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in connexion with the censorship, making special reference to the seizure of the Queensland- Hansard.
– The motion was supported by only six votes.
– At the request of the Minister for the Navy, the discussion of the motion was postponed until Monday, 11th February - that is, for nearly a month - and in the meanwhile the Prime Minister got his friends and the press to work, pointing out to the public how in this time of national danger it was necessary to have unity, and, as the honorable member for Illawarra tells us, he was successful in getting the motion defeated.
– Does that prove that the right honorable gentleman has not the confidence of the Nationalist party?
– I hope to state facts which show that he does not represent that party. We know from common report that at the meeting of the Nationalist party, at its caucus, great objection was raised to the leadership of the Prime Minister, every one hoping that he would get out, as he would have done had he been a strong man. But on that occasion, as on every other similar occasion, he raised the old cry of “ Wolf ! “ stating that the country was in danger, and that there was need for unity, meaning, of course, that there was need for keeping him in the Prime Ministership. His attitude reminds me of that of the profiteer, of whom we have read in the press, who, when a customer complained that he was charging twice as much for his goods as before the war, replied, “Why bring up such sordid matters now? Do you not know what is happening at the Western Front? “
The Prime Minister’s actions in Queensland showed that he cannot represent this country abroad. Under his instructions the military raided the Government Printing Office at Brisbane, and he caused the Premier and Treasurer of Queensland and two other residents of the State to be prosecuted for conspiracy. When better counsels prevailed, I believe he set his emissaries at work to have the matter settled.
– The Government withdrew the case.
– The Prime Minister did not proceed with it; he found that it was considered so objectionable. It is all very well for him to say that we should let bygones be bygones, and forget his words and actions, now that he has left for the Old Country, but I cannot forget them. The Prime Minister has insulted this party and a very large number of persons in the Commonwealth, and for that reason alone he has no right to go to the Old Country and say there that he represents the people of Australia.
– But he has gone.
– That is only in keeping with his cowardly conduct.
– Is that remark in order?
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw the word “cowardly” and substitute the word “pusillanimous.” This is how the right honorable gentleman at Bendigo, after the last general election, referred to the Labour party -
It was perfectly clear that the heart of Australia beat true. ( Renewed cheers.) The war had brought all their troubles to a head, for they did not all originate in the war. They were bred, as it were, in a dung-heap which was fostering them, and would have spread them and given them wings in time; but the heat of war quickened them more speedily.
The Prime Minister has used a great many choice epithets, to some of which I might refer, but as. there are ladies present I shall leave that branch of the subject. He said -
They had come out of the trial Australia, not felix, but Australia resolute and loyal; and the junta, comprised of disloyalists, extremists, pro-Germans, and peace-at-any-price men, who were against the Empire, against duty, had been swept away.
That is the way in which he referred to his former colleagues. This right honorable gentleman to-day pumped up tears. He said that he was prepared to fight to the death, and commenced to cry, as he has frequently cried before in this chamber when attacked.
– Do you not think that what occurred was merely the exhibition of natural emotion?
– I saw him give the same exhibition of natural emotion when in a Caucus meeting some years ago it was proposed that the Labour party should form a coalition with the Deakin party. He objected to such a coalition, saying, “ What more do we require than that we should be in Opposition, where we have won our name.” At the very thought of a coalition he shed tears, and could not proceed, but had to sit down. There was great sympathy with him then, and he got his way. Within three weeks he was advocating in the Caucus the same coalition. Similarly, he shed tears in the Caucus meeting at the time of the conscription referendum, and he has shed tears on almost every platform, and I believe did the same thing during the recent Conference concerning the situation in which we now find ourselves. When he was asking young men to go to the Front he said of those who would not go -
The shirker hereafter will be regarded as a leper and a pariah, and that is what he deserves.
Then, last year, when addressing the people of Australia, he spoke in this way about the Labour party -
Turn deaf ears to their craven counsels, to their lying statements, to their cunning misrepresentation. Unless you are wilfully blind, you must know that those who are the real, not the nominal, leaders of the campaign against the Government, are playing the game of Germany in our midst, that behind them are Sinn Feiners, Industrial Workers of the World men and Syndicalists, men of the type responsible for the great strike which paralyzed our industries, men responsible for the rebellion in Ireland, men to whom is due the failure of voluntary recruiting, the kind of men who today are in power in Russia, who, in return for German gold, are offering a separate peace to Germany, and so striking the most deadly blow at the cause of the Allies.
Are we to forget this? The Prime Minister has caused more dissension in Australia than any other man, and is always doing the thing which he ought not to do. Quite recently he has insulted a large section of the people by the War Precautions Regulation which he issued in regard to the Sinn Fein movement and the Irish people in the Commonwealth generally. This is it -
Any person who wears or displays any badge, flag, banner, emblem, or symbol, being, or purporting to be, a badge, flag, banner, emblem, or symbol of a country with which the King is now at war, or of any body or association who are disaffected to the British Empire, or of the society, association, or movement known as Sinn Fein, shall be guilty of an offence against the Act.
The Sinn Feiners are the gentlemen whom the Prime Minister told us in this House he would rather stand with than with the rich men in his party, because he said that the Sinn Feiners were men with an ideal.
We had to-day an exhibition of the Prime Minister’s methods. One of his methods all along has been exaggeration. Referring to Russia, he said at Bendigo recently, “ That great nation had passed out. Its head was now poised on the bloody pike of the Germans.” That is the language of tragedy, which we might expect from any red-eyed orator. Mr. BonarLaw, Chancellor of the Imperial Exchequer, did not take that view of Russia in the House of Commons the other night. Referring to the repudiation of the Russian national debt, he said he did not regard the Russian debt as bad. Sooner or later, Russia would again have ordered government.
All this sort of thing is part of the Prime Minister’s plan. That is to point out that things are very dreadful, in order that he may get away, and, if possible, with the unanimous consent of the House. Nothing pained him more, to my mind, than the amendment moved to-day, because it showed that he does not represent the unanimous opinion of Australia.
This Conference, which is foredoomed to failure, as somebody has pointed out, like the Conference with which Mr. Holman, of New South Wales, is so dissatisfied, is bound to be a failure, because of the maladministration of the Government,’ and particularly the Prime Minister’s maladministration, and his unwise and bitter speeches.
– Why did your leader take part in the Conference last week?
– The Prime Minister was told at that Conference the things that were standing in the way of recruiting, and has promised to remedy them. If these grievances under which the Labour party suffer are to be remedied, it will not be by the act of the Prime Minister. It will be by the act of the members of the Cabinet who remain after the Prime Minister has gone. They are men who, possibly, do not hold such distorted views of things, and who are not so vindictive as the Prime Minister. He said the other day, “Liberty is trembling in the balance.” Is not that an exaggeration!
– Of course it is. No such alarm was expressed in Bonar Law’s speech in the House of Commons the other night. He is Treasurer of the United Kingdom, and his statement was that the amount of money raised by taxation for war expenditure up to 1917-18 was £1,044,000,000, while at the end of the current financial year, on the present estimates, we should have raised £1,686,000,000. These figures proved, he said, that the country’s financial strength after five years of war, would be much greater than could have been anticipated, and was an amazing testimony to the country’s financial spirit. Finance is the most delicate barometer by which to ascertain the war atmosphere. There is no doubt in the mind of any investor in this country, or the United Kingdom, about the success of the Allies. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who said that liberty was trembling in the balance, has no doubt about the future. As a financial man, he knows that the principal investment companies in this country are earning more now than they ever did, and were’ never sounder.
To show what an impracticable man the Prime Minister is, and how inconsistent, he told us on Saturday night that liberty was trembling in the balance, whereas this morning he announces that the British Government have made arrangements with the Commonwealth Government to buy 250,000 tons of zinc concentrates per year during the war and for one year afterwards, and to take 300,000 tons per year for nine years after that.
– Does the honorable member say that the two positions are inconsistent?
– Of course, they are absolutely inconsistent. What is the use of talking about what we are going to do after the war in that regard, if the position is so serious? Instead of talking about what is going to happen after the war, the Government should be attempting towin the war. It has been the fault of the British Cabinet and of our Prime Minister throughout this period that he and Lloyd George have from the first boasted what they would do after the war ends. Those were speeches which should never have been made.
To show how impracticable the Prime Minister’s proposal in regard to zinc concentrates is, let me ask, What becomes of the war powers after the war ? They fall away. No agreement the Prime Minister enters into now will be valid after the wai-, because the old provisions dealing with State rights will then come into force again. The sections relating to trade and commerce will operate, and it is impossible for the Prime Minister or any one else to make a contract which will bind the States nine years after the war closes. One cannot pay any attention to the exaggerated statements of the Prime Minister. He said, in his conscription campaign at Bendigo -
Fellow citizens, I tell you plainly you stand now in grave danger, and I may remind you that I speak not at hazard, but as a member of the Imperial War Cabinet, and as one to whom all the information at its disposal is communicated.
That was published in the Melbourne press of the 13th November. He said we were in grave .danger, that our men were’ dying in the trenches and wanted assistance. Yet the other day Lloyd George told the public that in 1917 the Allies had an overwhelming majority of troops on the Western Front. While the Prime Minister was telling us that the men were crying for help in the trenches, at that very time there appeared in the press a statement by General Birdwood that the majority of the Australian soldiers were resting, and that others were in an easy sector, while the situation permitted of hopes that they would have a long period of peace. But any news that came from any supporter of the anti-conscriptionists showing that the position was not so grave as the Prime Minister stated was suppressed by the censor. News came through at that time from Mr. Keith Murdoch that our soldiers were playing football and indulging in other sports. That report was censored under instructions from the Prime Minister or Senator Pearce. A controversy took place during the referendum campaign as to the censorship, and Senator Pearce made certain statements about the matter. In the Melbourne Herald of 19th
January, 1918, the following was printed : -
Following on the remarks made by Senator G. F. Pearce, Minister for Defence, Professor Nicholson, chief of the censorship staff in Sydney, has supplied the following statement: -
With reference to the articles which appeared in the Sun of January 12 and 14 concerning the suppression of part of a London cable, the censor in Sydney states that he did not prevent, of his own initiative, the publication of Mr. Keith Murdoch’s remarks relative to Australians playing football and attending horse shows.
To those honorable members who say, “We must go on until victory is won - until the Germans are brought to their knees and crushed.” I would put the question, and I put it also to any military man present: If the British and their Allies were unable to break through the Hindenburg line when overwhelmingly superior in numbers on the Western Front, when are they now likely to plant the flag of liberty in Berlin, as the Prime Minister says we must do? I mention this as a reason why a very vital question ought to be asked - whether our delegates should not go to the Old Country to urge that there should be an armistice on all Fronts, and that the representatives of all the belligerent countries, with any neutrals acceptable to both parties, should meet to discuss peace terms?
To show how the Prime Minister exaggerates, he said in the last few days at Bendigo -
It was but yesterday that they were asked what could 100,000 men do. If 100,000 more Australians had stood where the Fifth Army of Britain was beaten, the Germans would not have advanced.
When asked to-day about the retirement of the Commander of the Fifth Army, he said he knew nothing about the matter. What are the facts appearing in to-day’s papers referring to General Foch’s Reserve Army, which is understood to be 1,000,000 strong? We are told-
An American army officer, who has returned from France to the United States reports that General Foch’s reserve army numbers 1,000,000 men. He adds that this army fought gallantly, and prevented the Germans pouring through the temporary gap between Lieutenant-General Sir Hubert Gough’s Fifth Army (which retreated from St. Quentin) and LieutenantGeneral Sir Julian Byng”s Third Army.
We all know of the extraordinary bravery that has been displayed by our Australian soldiers at the Front; we all know that they have been selected for very difficult work there; but surely it is an exaggeration to say that if 100,000 more Australian soldiers could have been at the Western front they would have been able to stem the German advance?
– At any rate, what is the use of talking about it when they will not take steps that will get the men ?
– The Government will not take that course because the Prime Minister is too afraid of losing his position. A prominent business man asked me recently, “ Why does not the Prime Minister do the right thing? He is the best-hated man in Australia; why does not he get out? “ I said, “ He will not, because he loves the Prime Ministership too much.” He is not a strong man. If he had been a strong man he would have gone to his Cabinet, in August, 1916, and said, “ Gentlemen I believe in conscription; if you do not accept it, I will resign.” But no, he said, “ I propose to have conscription.” When we defeated him on that question he brought in his referendum proposal. If he had been a strong man he would have gone back to his party after the referendum, as he was asked to do, and submitted his case to it; but no, he was afraid that the majority was against him, and he was too anxious to keep the Prime Ministership ; which, as a matter of fact, he had usurped or had purloined from this party.
Had he been a strong man, he would have come to the House with conscription, but no, he was afraid to do it. All along, all his manipulations and all his intriguings have been in the direction of keeping the Prime Ministership. He says that 100,000 more men to-day would make it certain that the onward march of Germany would be stemmed. That is the kind of stuff which be has been inviting the public of Australia to accept as a reason why they should continue to send men - more and more men, an ever-increasing number of men. The exaggeration of the statement may be seen by a glance at the figures given in the British House of Commons during the passage of the Man Power Bill, showing that the enlistments for the British Empire have reached a total of 7,500,000 men, made up as follows: - England, 4,530,000; Scotland, 620,000; Wales, 280,000; Ireland, 170,000- that disloyal Ireland; Dominions and Colonies, 900,000. These, with native troops, labour corps, carriers, and similar workers from India, Africa, and other Dependencies, make up a total of 7,500,000 men. Then there are 3,500,060 French soldiers, 2,500,000 Italians, and 500,000 Americans. All these make 14,000,000 men; and if we deduct 4,000,000 for casualties, we have a balance of 10,000,000 men available for the Allies. Yet the Prime Minister, apparently with great fervour, endeavours to persuade the country that if we could only get 100,000 more men from this sparsely populated Continent the German’s advance would be stemmed.
As a matter of fact, no thought has ever been given by the Prime Minister, or, so far as I know, by any member of the Ministry, to the question of how many men Australia can afford to send to the war, or how much we can do financially. It would appear that the young men of this country have been put up to a kind of auction. I have no desire to exaggerate, but I say deliberately that if we read the press from the commencement of the war until recently we shall see that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) said, “ We will send 20,000 men,” when the Prime Minister immediately said, “ We will send 40,000 men.” Then the. Minister for the Navy said, “We will send 60,000 men”; whereupon the Prime Ministersaid, “We will send 80,000 men”; then the Minister for the Navy said, “ Let us send 100,000 men.” The Prime Minister followed by saying, “ Let us make it 150,000.” The Minister for the Navy next said, “We should send 200,000 men.” And so the whole thing went on until the Prime Minister capped the bidding by saying, “We will send 300,000 men.” There has been no attempt to ascertain how many men were really required to carry onthe primary and secondary industries of this country, to see how many men could be safely spared from the cattle stations, the sheep stations, the f arms, the dairying industry, the fruit-growing industry, metal mining, coal mining, or commercial pursuits; and again no serious attempt has been made to ascertain how we can finance the war, having due regard, not only to our present responsibilities, but also to those which must face us after the war. Our financial obligations demand that we must maintain and equip our men at the Front. . Canada and South Africa do not do that, but we have to do it. We have also obligations to face that will mature after the war in regard to our men and their dependants ; 200,000 or 300,000 men must be repatriated. We are heaping up a huge national debt, which is going to be shared by the producing classes of this country, the brain and hand workers who produceour wealth.
I ask my financial friends in this chamber whether it is not a fact that after this war the rieh in this country and everywhere will be richer, and the poor of every country poorer? When we were introducing taxation measures, my friends opposite said, “What is the use of putting this into law - the tax will pnly be passed on to the working classes?” No doubt in a great many cases taxation is passed on to the great masses of the workers, who possess nothing. Time will not permit me to show that after the war, not only in this country, but in every country, the position that I have stated will prove to be true.
We were rather surprised at a resolution which was passed the other day by a conference of railway men. That resolution was as follows : -
That in view of the fact that the Federal Government have made no attempt whatever to deal with the financial problems that have arisen, and will arise, through the war, and realizing that the whole burden of the war will fall on the workers, this conference advocates the repudiation of the national war debt.
I need hardly say that I do not agree with that resolution. As I have said previously, we cannot expect the general public to lend us money for nothing; indeed, we ought not to expect it . I have already pointed out that many people contribute money to our war loans who could make, very much more by investing their capital in other ways. However, I point out to honorable members who are desirous of continuing the war, apparently indefinitely, and endeavouring to do the impossible, that they are building up such a war debt that they will find the workers in every country talking in the same strain. It would appear that so long as money can be found to carry on thewar, it will be carried on; that it will only end when the financiers in every country engaged in the war become alarmed as to the soundness of their security, and that when thattime comes they will be pre pared to discuss terms at a peace conference.
The Paris Conference was one of the great blunders of the Allies, and that it was so waslargely due to the speeches delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Speaking at the British Imperial Council of Commerce, he said -
We must cut out the cancer of German trade.
That sentiment was not approved by every one in the Old Country. For example, Sir William Lever said -
The strength of Great Britain is due to her open trade and the freedom of the seas. When the war is over, all bitterness must cease.
That is the idea held by a number of statesmen in the Old Country. Speaking atthe Stock Exchange dinner on 10th August, 1916, the Prime Minister said -
I am very glad to believe that Britain and her Allies have sealed a contract in the resolutions as set forth in the Paris Conference which will build a barrier round Germany, which will, with all her powers of organization and her virility and tenacity of purpose, make it impossible for her to scale.
At Adelaide, in August, 1916, the Prime Minister said -
The Paris Conference resolutions are the Magna Charta of a new commercial and indus trial era.
It is no use being blinded by fury to every-day facts of life. These are the views, I suppose, which the Prime Minister intends to advocate at the Imperial Conference. It is a great pity that he ever gave expression to such views; he ought to have waited until after the war; but having been made, they had their inevitable effect.
I have been informed by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who has beenat the Front, that these speeches of the Prime Minister were translated and circulated throughout Germany; and we can easily believe that such was the fact. The militarist party in Prussia, in order to stop the peace agitation, had only to make those speeches of the Prime Minister public - those speeches of the “ flame bearer,” as I think Mr. Lloyd George calls him - to show the pacifists what the Allies would do the moment they were victorious. My conviction is that the war would have been over long ago but for the Paris Conference and the jingoistic utterances of those who declared that the Allies would take all the German colonies and boycott Germany for all time.
There is only one way to beat GermanAustrian trade after the war, and that is to supply a better article at the same price, or as good an article at a lower price. Another way would be to prohibit every article at present imported from all other countries into Australia; but that, of course, is unthinkable.
– Is a high protective Tariff not another way?
– Another way is presented in partial prohibition - to prohibit German-Austrian goods and allow importation from Italy, France, the United States, and other Allied countries under a preferential Tariff. That, indeed, isthe gist of the Paris Conference resolution; but it is foolish, and utterly futile.
– You supported the same principle in Australia previously.
– I have always pointed out that in preferential trade we ought to have a provision that goods so favoured should be manufactured at trade-union rates, and bear a certificate to that effect; but, so far, I have not been able to get the House to see the justice and wisdom of this. Supposing we exclude GermanAustrian goods, we shall simply find these goods sold to neutral countries, . or America, or some of the Allied countries, and coming in here under the preferential Tariff. Under the preferential arrangement with Great Britain, we found that Belgium agreed with exporters before the war to pay the 5 per cent. or 10 per cent. British preference if our merchants would deal from them.
Nor would it be of any use passing resolutions such as were passed recently by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, that all goods from enemy countries should foe labelled. What was the effect of the “Made-in -Germany” label in England ? It spread German trade throughout the British Isles. It will be remembered that when the Inter-State Commission was inquiring into the piano manufacturing industry in Sydney a manufacturer said that the retailers asked him to put German names on the instruments, because these were preferred to English names.
Nor should we be able to hurt Germany by a silly resolution suchas that of the Honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly), who desires the Government to cut all German names out of the Australian vocabulary. That would not have the slightest effect, because the goods would come in, and the vendors would simply say that the articles were those which used to be known under German names.
As to the German colonies, we ought to know what the Prime Minister proposes to advocate in the Old Country. At the recent Conference at Government House, the Prime Minister said that there was a peace propaganda going on, supported with German money. If so, it is singular that the Prime Minister, who is at the head of all the military and Commonwealth police, does not discover the person who is spending the German money, and put him in gaol. I have before referred to the enormous extent of territory we in Australia have under our control, and pointed out how much it is costing to develop, and with what little success. I have also urged that the annexation of the German colonies is quite inconsistent with our pledge to wage a holy war. In a speech I made on the subject, I said -
I say quite frankly, and with complete indifference concerning any abuse or adverse cricitism by the press, that we ought now to affirm that we are willing to return captured colonies to Germany the moment peace is declared.
By the way, when I wished to publish that speech, the censor cut out the part I have quoted. It is an extraordinary state of things when I am not allowed to tell the people what I believe would shorten the war, while others areallowed, as in the case of the Queensland Recruiting Committee, to urge that we hang on to the German colonies.
– Would you give them up?
– I say that we ought to hold the colonies during the war, but tell the British Government that we do not desire them if their retention is going to stand in the way of peace - that if they are going to be the means of keeping the war on for even an hour, we do not desire them, because we have territory enough. What does Lloyd George say ? He says -
With regard to the German colonies, I have repeatedly declared that they are held at the disposal of a conference, whose decision must have primary regard to the wishesand interests of the native inhabitants of such territories. None of those territories areoccupied by Europeans.
Mr. Lloyd George does not know everything when he says that -
The governing consideration, therefore, must be that the inhabitants should be placed under the control of an administration acceptable to themselves, one of whose main purposes will be to prevent their exploitation for the benefit of European capitalists or Governments.
The natives live in their various tribal organizations, and the chiefs in councils, who are competent to consult and speak for their tribes and members, and thus to represent their wishes and interests in regard to their disposal. The general principle of national selfdetermination is therefore as applicable in their cases as in those of occupied European territories.
Recently, I picked up the report of the Lieutenant- Governor (Mr. Murray) for Papua for 1916-17, and, without any special searching, opened it at page 47, where I came across some remarks regarding our own Territory.As to the natives being able to determine such matters for themselves, let me read you a passage from a report by the LieutenantGovernor, after he had visited Strickland River and Lake Murray -
In the morning we found that we were anchored opposite a large house built near a clump of coconuts, on some rising ground on the right hand side as you enter the lake from the Herbert River. A few men came out in canoes, but they were rather shy; there were about fifty more on shore. I saw no women or children.
We went on shore after breakfast, but our landing was the signal for a general dispersion of all the natives into the surrounding bush. We followed them for some time, but could not come up to them, so we returned to the house, leaving presents on the track, and trusting that their natural curiosity would eventually overcome their fear.
Proceeding, he said -
In the meantime the natives were beginning to come back, some in friendly, others in hostile mood. One of the latter discharged a couple of arrows at Sergeant G. E. Gera, and another appeared to be on the point of putting one into me, when he was discouraged by a couple of shots which Mr. Murray fired over his head. At a later stage of the proceedings a little old man emerged from nowhere in particular, and, nervously fingering his bow and arrow, seemed determined to try the effect of a shot upon our cook, when the man over whose head Mr. Murray had fired ran up and stopped him. Evidently the shot had had more than a momentary effect.
It seemed improbable after the shots that we could establish friendly relations with these people, but by degrees the constraint wore off, and harmony reigned in its place; indeed, before we left we had them dancing and singing with the police.
We had, unfortunately, no common language, but,sofar as we could ascertain, the name of this house is Miwo, and there are two other villages, one further up the lake called Piwor, and another between the lake and the Herbert River called Moroyu.
The point is that we Have no common language; and the natives in German New Guinea, who have no common language, are to be left to decide which Power shall rule over them.
– “ Self-determination.”
– Yes; “ selfdetermination.”
– What means would the honorable member adopt?
– I have already said that if the retention of the German colonies means prolonging the warfive minutes, we ought to tell the Imperial authorities that we do not wish to have these colonies, because we have too much territory of our own to develop.
At present, we have an International Commission managing the New Hebrides, and a similar suggestion was made in regard to the German colonies. At the New Hebrides there is a Condominium, or mixed tribunal, consisting of an Englishman, a Frenchman, and a Spaniard, who decide disputes as they arise. This arrangement gives no satisfaction to either French or British. Only recently I saw a published complaint that, while the French” are carrying out their part of the programme with regard to the isolation of the Germans, the British are allowing the Germans to trade just as much as before the war. I mention this to show how impossible it would be for us to manage any of those countries with what is called an International Commission.
The policy of our delegates to the Old Country ought to be to recommend that there be an armistice on all fronts, and that the representatives of the belligerent countries, and any neutral countries that are acceptable to the belligerents, should assemble round the table and discuss peace terms.
– Supposing that could not be arranged ?
– I submit that it is no use our making speeches at one another 7,000 or 10,000 miles apart. It is said that the Germans are not in favour of peace - that they do not mean what they say. If so, let us put them to the test; get them round a table. On 27th February, the German Imperial Chancellor said -
I doubt the utility of public speeches by statesmen, but the cause of peace could he furthered by private discussions between responsible representatives of the belligerents.
The question of Belgium should be discussed in a friendly manner, in order to arrive at an understanding. Germany has repeatedly declared that she does not think of retaining Belgium; but Germany must be protected against Belgium being used as a deploying ground for enemy machinations. v
– Do you remember that it was in the same week that the Imperial Council in Germany cancelled the Reichstag’s peace motion’ f
– The Germans asked the Allies to discuss peace in 1915: Without doubt, after the battle of the Marne they recognised one of their own military maxims, that when an invader is stopped, he is beaten, and they were anxious at that time to make the best terms possible. They again asked us to discuss peace in 1916, and the Reichstag passed a resolution favouring no annexations said no indemnities. But when wild speeches, such as those delivered by the Prime Minister, are made, when we talk about bringing Germany to her knees, and of boycotting her for ever after the war, we give the militarists an argument with which to approach the pacifists.
And when the militarists and pacifists and all others get together and push back the Allies in a fortnight over territory that it took us a couple of years to win, the military party has a further opportunity to approach the Reichstag for a repudiation of the resolution regarding no annexations and no indemnities. The longer the wai* lasts the more difficult will peace become.
I have here a copy of the speech delivered by the German Chancellor in 1916, in which he reiterated Germany’s readiness for peace negotiations, and denied Mr. Asquith’s statements that Germany had not announced peace conditions, except such as would be unbearable and humiliating.
My suggestion is that the two great belligerents shall be brought together at a table to discuss peace, and then, if Germany refuses to come to honor able terms, let. the war continue. But it is folly to say that we will not discuss peace until we have brought Germany to her knees. Let me repeat what the censor will not allow me to tell the people of the Commonwealth. I said, on the 28th February, 1917, that I had heard that a gentleman in a high position in the Old Country had stated that this war would end in a draw. I said a few days ago that I could mot find that statement in Ilansard, but I have since found it. I said further on that occasion -
If those in authority know that the war must end in a draw, woe betide them when, later, it is discovered that they continued to send men into the trenches to suffer and to be maimed and killed, when they could have discussed peace - which must come sooner or later - and brought it about sooner.
I say again, and I am prepared to take oath that I believe it to be true, that the King of England stated in the middle of 1916 that the war would end in a stalemate. That is a term used in chess to indicate the position of the king when he cannot move without being placed in check.
– The King of England would not make such a statement.
-It is not in order to introduce the name of the Sovereign in order to influence a debate.
– I think I may refer to His Majesty, provided I do so in respectful language. I have given the House my opinions for what they are worth. I repeat that when we, have an opportunity to discuss peace, we should take it. I do not believe that the Germans will succeed in their attempt to reach the French coast. Their advance will be stopped, and probably they will avail themselves of the territory they have captured to again entrench; and when the Allies resume their offensive they will probably lose hundreds of thousands of men, as the Germans have done. If highly-placed men are in possession of information that this war will result in a return to the status quo ante bellum, they ought to be manly enough to say so, and not, for the sake of their miserable, paltry political reputations, continue the war longer, in the vain hope that it may bring them victory.
.- The opinions of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) in regard to the war are as f,ar removed from mine as are the poles apart. I hold the opinion that if we had made peace at any time during this war on the basis of the military situation it would have meant ruin to Great Britain and Australia in the near future, lt is vital to our very existence that we shall continue to fight until we are in a position to restore the map of Europe to something like the condition it was in before Germany broke upon that portion of the world with its outrages. But, as I have already indicated in this House’, I am, to a considerable extent, in accord with the attitude of members of the Opposition in their antagonism to the Prime Minister, and I regret very much that I cannot support the amendment in its present form, because the Leader of the Opposition has included in it a condemnation of the Minister for the Navy. I strongly approve of the right honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Joseph Cook) going to London to attend the Imperial Conference. He is still leader of a party that has consistently taken a very definite attitude and shaped a very dofinite course in regard to the war, at any rate until we were beguiled into the arms of the Prime Minister. The Minister for, the Navy has stated his opinion quite* freely and frankly, that if we cannot obtain reinforcements for our men at the front by voluntary means other steps will have to be taken, and I trust that he has expressed that view very plainly and forcibly to the Acting Prime Minister, so that when this present farce of recruiting is absolutely played out the opinions of the old Liberal party, as expressed by the Minister for the Navy, may be carried into effect. We heard from the Prime Minister this afternoon a speech that was quite in his best style, a speech which 1 have no doubt will be placarded all over Australia, and will add laurels to those the right honorable gentleman has already gained by his eloquence. But I have listened to so many of these speeches made in somewhat similar circumstances that they do not affect me so much as they may affect others. I saw the Prime Minister on one occasion actually break down under the stress of his emotions when speaking in support of a certain cause, and I saw that same right honorable gentleman a week later betray the very cause for which he had shown so much feeling and enthusiasm. The Prime Minister took a great deal of credit for the patriotic and magnanimous spirit in which he claimed to have met his opponents at the recent Conference. He even protested to his supporters that they should not continue to abuse honorable members opposite in the way they have been doing, when we know perfectly well that he himself has been the principal sinner in that respect and has led the chorus of attacks on his political opponents. The Prime .Minister had in his hand, in the course, of his speech, that large and weighty volume, weighty in the literal sense, at any rate, which records the sayings, if not the’ doings, of the Conference which concluded last week. I never expected very much from the Conference. I recognised it largely as an effort on the part of the GovernorGeneral to remedy the blunder he made in calling this slacker Government back to office, and I am not surprised that in the circumstances the Conference ended with a pious resolution which takes us not a bit further forward “than we were in regard to finding reinforcements for our men at the Front. When the Prime Minister waxes so pathetically eloquent over the necessity for obtaining those reinforcements, and when he calls in frenzied accents upon the young men of Australia to do their duty, does he ever realize that he also has a duty to perform in this matter, a duty that he has carefully left alone, a duty that at the present time is almost overwhelming in its necessity and urgency? That duty is to give the country a lead in regard to recruiting. It is a duty that he and his Government must take upon themselves if they are to be a Government in anything more than name. They must take upon themselves the securing of the needed reinforcements by hook or by crook. If one method fails another must be adopted. Is there any question in the mind of any honorable member as to the absolute failure of voluntary recruiting? We have been faced during the last few weeks with the gravest crisis that has ever overtaken the British Empire. We are confronted with a position that may well bring concern to the mind of the most indifferent individual in the community. Have we had any substantial response from the manhood of Australia? I grant that in New South Wales there has been a partial response to the appeal for recruits, which has not been due to the gravity of the military situation in Europe, but to the efforts of one individual. Horse racing flourishes, and the theatres are still crammed. I came into Melbourne a few nights ago, and I felt sick at heart at seeing about the Block crowds of eligible young men, careless, happy, and absolutely indifferent, as if they were unconscious that a war was in progress. I stood one afternoon on the outside edge of a recruiting meeting at the Melbourne Town Hal!, and I heard a returned sergeant make an appeal that should have moved any man who was fit to volunteer and desired to do his duty. He asked that at least one should come forward to fill his place. What was the response? After a very great deal of pleading, one man did come forward, and he turned out to be a returned soldier. I stood at another recruiting .meeting out at Hawthorn a few nights ago, and again heard a returned officer make an eloquent and moving appeal to the crowd about him, but he appealed in vain. Then, becoming sarcastic, he told them that he had had a very successful recruiting meeting in the Town Hall a few nights before, at which he had secured four recruits, one of them an old man, and the other three returned soldiers. It is sufficiently well known that at the present time the bulk of the recruits we are getting are men with families, lads who have just reached the age at which they are permitted to volunteer, or returned soldiers. It appears to be of no use to make these appeals to men who are fit to go to the Front and whose duty it is to go. Every method by which they can be urged to the performance of their duty has been used without result, and to prolong the farce any longer is only to continue to cover this country and its, Parliament with unutterable shame and disgrace.
– And what the honorable member suggests is conscription?
– I suggest that when it is clear that the voluntary method has failed .some other .method should be adopted, and to my mind it necessarily involves compulsion. I feel sure that were that method put into operation the fearsome suspicions ‘ entertained of it by many people would at once be dissi pated, and that it would become quite popular before very long. At all events, I wish to point out that the Government have not yet tried to introduce conscription. They have not yet made a proposal to Parliament to introduce it. If they can crack the whip over honorable members in connexion with matters of secondary or trivial importance, I fail to see why they should not endeavour to, secure support for a measure of compulsory enlistment. We are continually told that the people have turned down conscription. If there is anything of which I am more certain than another, it is that the people of Australia did not vote on the merits of conscription. I feel sure that at both referenda the majority in favour of “ No “ represented electors who voted against the proposal in hostility to the Prime Minister, or as a protest against such a matter being put before the country at all. I find that even those who took up a position of antagonism to conscription are beginning to express doubts as to the wisdom of the course they have adopted in the past. The ‘ Leader of the Labour party in one of the State Parliaments has recently been saying something -like that. I know there are many people who opposed conscription in the past because they believed that the voluntary principle had not been absolutely exhausted, but are now of the opinion that there is nothing for it but a measure of conscription. -Surely there is nothing alarming in the suggestion that the shortage under the voluntary principle in supplying 5,400 men per month should be made good by the compulsory method. I do not suggest the sweeping of every able-bodied man in Australia into military camps again. That was one of the reasons why the conscription proposal was burned down in the past. But I protest with all the earnestness of which I am capable against continuing the farce of voluntary recruiting. We all know that it is a farce. We all know that the voluntary principle has failed. There is left only one thing to make our eligible men do their duty, and that is the necessary degree of force which I believe the present Government could exercise with every justification at the present time. Whatever may have been their pledges in the past, and whatever antagonism certain members of the Government may have shown to conscription previously, all those considerations are absolutely overborne and thrust aside by the one necessity before Australia at the present time. Speaking generally, another 100,000 men will not make very much difference to our Forces fighting in France, though they might count at a critical point in a battle, and even if we started sending those men now they could hardly be in France before the present critical position is relieved. What I am proposing is necessary for the honour and reputation of Australia in the eyes of the rest of the world. We had suggestions in our cables of what America thinks about Ireland, and the attitude to conscription there. What does she think about Australia? The time may come when this country will be helpless before even as great an evil as that which threatens us at the present time, and when we shall naturally desire that America should come to our assistance. America may well decline to do anything of the kind. Australia cannot afford to neglect her duty at the present time. We have an overwhelming obligation upon us to put ourselves in line with the people of Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and America; and if we do not do it, it is a case of God help our children, at all events, if not ourselves. Let me say, in conclusion, to the Government that if they take courage and do that which I suggest is the duty which stares them in the face, I believe there will be very little difficulty about it. I fail to see that the attitude of the people of Australia will in any way differ from the attitude of the people in other countries of the Allies that have accepted conscription from their respective Governments. On the other hand, the necessity is now greater and more clamant, and the justification for conscription more complete than ever it was before. So far as I am personally concerned, I do not hesitate to say that I shall continue to do everything in my power to spur the country, the Parlia- ment, and the Government to the performance of our plain , duty in the only way in which it is possible for it to be performed. I am sorry that I cannot support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor). I am in accord with the spirit of it, but for the reasons I have already stated, my vote cannot be given in favour of it.
– The amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) seeks to put in plain and specific terms the reasons why objection should, and can, be taken to Australia being represented by Mr. Hughes at the forthcoming Imperial Conference. That objection is based on experience, because honorable members will recall that in 1916 Mr. Hughes, who was then Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Government, attended the Imperial Conference; and it was with the full concurrence, not only of his party, but of the whole House. There is some ground for the objection raised by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) with respect to the inclusion of the Minister for lie Navy (Mr. Cook) within the scope of the amendment; but honorable members may perhaps recall in my favour that when Mr. Hughes was- about to depart in 1916 I suggested that the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cook) should also proceed to London so that both parties and both sections of the community should be represented and their views expressed before the Imperial authorities.
It is largely, no doubt, because of the conduct of Mr. Hughes at that Conference that objection has now been taken to his departure for London. What happened there we do not yet know. There was a secret session of both -Houses of the Com-*, monwealth Parliament upon his return, and Mr. Hughes was expected to detail confidentially to honorable members something of the discussions which occurred at the Imperial Conference. We heard a good deal about other things, but nothing about the Conference itself. And, so far as Australia is concerned, what happened there, how Australia was represented, whether our views were expressed as we would have wished them put, or whether the attitude of Australia in regard to war problems was clearly shown, is quite unknown to honorable members even at this distant date. What we do know is that when Mr. Hughes arrived in London, he, in a really remarkable way, abandoned the political friends with whom he had been associated previously. He forsook the friends of the party he was then leading, and sold himself to Lord Northcliffe.
– But you did not find this out until after the referendum.
– There is no question that the astute Mr. Hughes sold himself to the Northcliffe press, on the principle of “ Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.” He so far forgot the mission on which he was sent to London as to become the mouthpiece of the Northcliffe press, who boomed him to carry out their purpose of securing the withdrawal of Mr. Asquith and the promotion of Mr. Lloyd George - one of the most discreditable and unfortunate political episodes that have marked the pages of British history.
– You really think Mr. Hughes did all that?
– He was used to assist to that end.
– There was never a word about it when he returned. You praised him for what he had done.
– At that Conference Mr. Hughes went alone. The Opposition at that time made no claim and asked for no representation. But, as it turned out, their views were represented, while the views of the party which Mr. Hughes was leading were not represented, because his utterances in London and Paris were not then, and are not to-day, the views of the Labour party in Australia. When Mr. Hughes went to England in 1916 he was alone, and with his clever ability to stagemanage things, he took the whole of the limelight; it was a well-known fact that he’ refused to allow even prominent Australians, including the High Commissioner and such visitors from the Commonwealth as members of this Parliament, to either assist or be associated with him in the work he was doing. Honorable members will also recall that last year another invitation was stated to have been received, and Mr. Hughes again accepted it, and was prepared to leave for London forthwith. But at that time, evidently, his new-found political friends were not quite sure of letting him go alone, and it was decided that Sir John Forrest and Sir William Irvine should accompany him. Why those two, and why two, we have not been able yet to discover.
Of their quality I am not complaining, but we wondered why two had been chosen to watch Mr. Hughes, when the Labour party had been content to let him go alone. Possibly it was that his friends profited by out experience, and decided to send two of his colleagues to keep a -watch on him. However, that- particular visit collapsed ; and it was not due to anything that we did, or were able to do, but because two of the Prime Minister’s own supporters in the Senate at the last moment carried a motion which compelled the abandonment of the trip, exactly a day before Mr. Hughes was to have left Australia. That Imperial Conference was held, and Australia’s views were more clearly known in 1917 by our non-representation thereat than in the previous year, when we were represented.
Coming to this present visit, honorable members will bring to mind the secrecy which surrounded the departure of the Prime Minister in 1916. They will recall the remarkably clever strategic manner of his leaving Sydney, and they will remember the acclaims of the people which rang in his ears as he was about to leave, together with the arrangements which were made in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Fremantle for farewell meetings. And we ali know how he left Sydney, and, after going a few miles, doubled back on his tracks; and presently we heard of him in America. One wonders why there was all this secrecy in respect to. his departure. Yet that has been almost paralleled by the circumstances of his present departure from our shores. Even oh Saturday last he bluffed his own constituents in Bendigo. He is reported in the ‘Age of Monday to have said -
Something had been said about leaving them for a little while. If it were in the womb of the future that he should go to represent them in another place, he would endeavour to uphold the traditions of Australia as worthily and as well as he could.
– What is wrong with that?
– Only that he was evidently unwilling to inform his own constituents that he was on the very eve of leaving for London.
– He had already done’ so in Parliament.
– No. The policy speech ‘says, “The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy will represent the Commonwealth,” but there was no suggestion until to-day publicly given that the departure was imminent. There were all sorts of rumours, but as to when he was actually going that was kept a particular secret.
Mr.Watt. - You do not seem happy tonight.
– Ihope to make the Minister a bit uncomfortable before I finish. The Prime Minister made a great song about the disappointment - not to himself, of course - to the Imperial authorities as the result of his being prevented from going to London last year. He said -
The voices of the other Dominions will be heard at the London Conference. The voice of Australia will be silent. What will our soldiers, who haveborne the heat and burden of the day, who have endured, fought, bled, and sacrificed all things in order that the honour of Australia might be upheld -what will they say when they learn their country is not to share in these vitally important deliberations? What can any loyal Australian say of a party calling itself Australian which thus deliberately inflicts this humiliation and injury upon his country?
And what has Australia lost by not having been represented on that occasion ? During this present visit to Europe the Prime Minister will not go near the soldiers - I venture to say. He will not ask their opinion about this trip. He has lively recollections of the last occasion, in similar circumstances. No. The front line will not see him. He may get the soldiers to again walk 11 miles to hear him talk, and then trudge another 11 to their work on the Front again. The Prime Minister sighed, and cried, and whined because he was not allowed to go last year.
– He did not complain about his not going, but about Australia’s lack of representation.
– What has Australia lost?
– We do not know.
– And what will Australia gain by being represented this year ?
– We do not know that, either. Do you object to Australia being represented ?
– There is no objection to our representation. I do not know that there is any disadvantage in the ideas of Australia being stated, but the Imperial authorities are quite well aware of the attitude of this Commonwealth ; and if the results of Mr. Hughes’ visit are to be as negative and vague and useless as was the outcome of the 1916 Conference, then the delegation, with all its expense, might well have been saved us.
– You complimentedMr. Hughes on his work when he returned.
– I seconded the motion that he should accept the invitation, and I believed we did the right thing then. I suggested at the same time that Mr. Cook, as Leader of the Opposition, should go with him. To-day it cannot be said that Mr. Hughes and Mr. Cook are representative of Australia ; they can only state their views, and those of their party, at best.
– That represents Australia.
– It does not, because a large section of the people repudiate Mr. Hughes and Mr. Cook in regard to their war policy. I do not claim that the Leader of the Opposition, or any member of this party, should have accompanied them; but if the Imperial Government desire to know verbally, and at first hand, what are the views of the people of Australia, then a representative from this side should have been invited also to go to London.
– You were asked to form a National Government with us, and if you had done so you would have been represented.
– I pointed out last week that the invitation for us to join, under the condition set out - that is, that we were to accept a policy agreeable to the National Government - was quite on a line with the Kaiser’s reiteration that he is most anxious to live at peace with his neighbours, but that it shall be based upon a German victory.
– That was not the condition of the invitation.
– It was. I read it out from Hansard last week, and if the Minister cares to look up the Prime Minister’s policy speech, delivered at the beginning of this year, he will find that statement. It was not the statement which he made in the House, but the statement which he put into Hansard after delivering his speech in this chamber.
What the Imperial Conference proposes to do this time we do not know. Certain it is that it cannot do anything to increase Australia’s active interest and concern in regard to the war. We differ upon the methods for securing reinforcements for. our troops;but the attitude of the people and . the part taken by Australia need neither apology nor excuse, and the Imperial Government would be the last to suggest that there is anything wanting in Australia’s support in relation to the war. We may have our own opinion - and some of us have very definite opinions - concerning the methods of conducting the war ; but in regard to the necessity for persevering in the effort to secure a satisfactory and lasting peace the people of Australia are of one mind with the Imperial authorities.
– That was not the view expressed by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) this afternoon.
– I think it was. It will be remembered that when the figures for the last conscription referendum were announced the London Times and other British papers said that the vote did not mean any lessening of Australia’s interest in the war; But that it merely indicated that Australia did not approve of that method of: finding the men. We have not heard one word yet of complaint from the other side, or any derogatory statements, in regard to Australia’s share in this war. The Imperial Government know what our attitude is, and apparently they are satisfied, so what can this Imperial Conference hope to achieve ? Will it determine what is to be Australia’s position after the war? Will it consider the question of the German colonies in the Pacific, and the probable effect their re-occupation by Germany will have upon Australia’s future safety? If so, then the Prime Minister of Great Britain must again make an alteration in his statement, because he has said quite clearly that the position of the German colonies and their place after the war must be determined bythe Peace Conference, so the pending Imperial Conference can be of no use so far as that matter is concerned.
– What Conference is the Prime Minister going to anyway?
– We must accept his statement that the British Government have asked representatives of the Dominions to meet in London at an early date.
-What for ?
– We have been told that they have been invited, and we must accept the statement. I only hope, now that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy have gone, that they will have a successful trip, that the Imperial Conference debates will be of some value, and that whenthey come back we will have an opportunity of knowing what it was all about. Up to the present we have been told nothing, although we have asked repeatedly ifthe representatives of this Government were going to London, what they were going to discuss, and if the House would have an opportunity to express its views upon the various subjects. That opportunityhas been denied to us, so that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy are now on their way to London with a free hand, so far as any instruction from this House is concerned, whatever instructions may have been given to them in the National party’s Caucus room.
– The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook), in reply to a question, said he did notknow what subjects were to be discussed at the Conference.
– Then Ministers must have a free hand, because instructions cannot be given unless the subjects are known. The one satisfactory feature about the whole business is that they cannot commit Australia to anything, and that,afterall, their visit will be purely of an advisory character. That being so, I submit that the expenditure involved by the retinue accompanying the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy will impose an unreasonable tax upon. Australian finances at a time when economy is being so assiduously, and so properly preached by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt).
– How many have gone with the Prime Minister?
– I do not know, but I believe about twenty.
– The Prime Minister is taking the same number of officials as on the last occasion, but the delegation is strengthened by the presence of the Minister for the Navy, that is all.
– As I have already said, the Prime Minister’s attitude on his former visit to London establishes his unfitness to represent Australia at this juncture. His utterances at the Paris Economic Conference, and those of Mr. Lloyd George - especially those known as the” knock-out blow “ speeches -have done more than anything else to prolong this wax. This is not merely my own view, but it is corroborated to a large extent bythe press ofGreat Britain. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) pointedout to-night that the speeches made by thePrime Minister at the Paris Economic Conference, where he denounced all idea of future dealings with Germany and maintained that nothing but the absolute annihilation of that country would be satisfactory, that Germany must be so absolutely overwhelmed that she never could hope to rise again, were circulated in the trenches among German soldiers. I leave it to honorable members to imagine howGerman resistance must have been stiffened when the German people realized that even after the war was over a ruthless and determined economic war would be conductedby the Allies. Ihave repeatedly stated that, in my judgment, the Prime Minister has proved himself to be the greatest pro-German in this country.
– The honorable member cannot mean that, surely?
– I honestly believe it. I believe you encourage enemy peoples moreby telling them you are going to keep at them until they are absolutely and hopelessly crushed than by cheering them. Both the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister ofGreat Britain possess that peculiar hysterical temperament which makes them say things in the excitement of the moment that cannot besubstantia tedby calm and reasoned consideration.
– President Wilson has said the samethings.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- President Wilson has absolutely repudiated the Paris Economic Conference resolutions. The latest utterances : by Mr.Lloyd George, when stating thewar aims of the Allies, are to theeffect that it is not desired to disintegrate Germany or depriveher ofher great position. That question,he now points out, is a matter for theGerman people. With few exceptions, that represents the view of all leading men. They state that it is not ourdesire to destroy the trade of Germany, but to crush Prussian militarism, and that when that is done our work will befinished.
– Does the honorable member think a statement like that from British statesmen would have any effect upon the Prussian military authorities ?
– Undoubtedly I do.
– I do not think the honorable member does think so. The honorable member is more concerned about reaching the German people.
Mr.FINLAYSON. -I am more concerned with getting the ears of the German people than of the military authorities, and I believe that statements by our Imperial speakers affect the Prussian military officials as distinct from the mass of the people to this extent,and they know that if the ideas promulgated by some of our public speakers - those who do not agree with the war viewsexpressed by Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Hughes - reach the ears of theGerman people, the war cannot continue.
What is the position in England inregard to the war? Icame across a most significantreport recently,stating that Sir Auckland Geddeshad addressed a meetingofengineers inGlasgow on l8th January inregard tothe man-power proposals of the Government. Hehad a tremendous audience, about3,000 people being present, and had a very lively time. At the close of the meeting the following resolutions were carried, and were printed in the Glasgow Herald: -
– Those resolutions must have been carried by a lot of cripples, because all the Scotch fighting men areat the Front.
Mr.FINLAYSON.-I think the honorable member mustbe wrong, becausethe Imperial Government would not be so utterly foolish as to send a Minister to Glasgow toadvise alotof cripplesto consider “the combing-out proposals” - that detestable phrase - as applicable to the Glasgow workshops.
– They might as well compare the workers with a lot of lice, because that iswhat the phrase means.
-It is undoubtedly a most detestable phrase. I repeat that the Imperial Government would not have sent a Minister to Glasgow to address a meeting of cripples in regard to their man-power proposals, and I think the honorable member for Henty has overstated his view of the case.
It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister should seek to represent Australia at the Imperial Conference, because he is so unreliable and uncertain. I admire his fervid and patriotic utterances, and I question if there is another man in Australia who could make such telling speeches in regard to the war. But even in this House to-day we heard him repeating that when he went out to fight, whether it was a physical or economical struggle, he went out to fight to the bitter end. Thus, expressing this sentiment, he has gone from Australia with the intention of fighting Germany to the end - fighting her in the present struggle, and fighting her afterwards.
– Quite right!
– That is not the view, either of the people of Australia
– Yes, it is.
– Or of the people of Great Britain. It is undoubted that since the Paris Economic Conference the views of the people of Great Britain and of our Allies have undergone a remarkable change. A change was expected to take place when Mr. Asquith was dethroned and Mr. Lloyd George was elevated to his position, as the result of one of those clever tricks for which the present Prime Minister of Great Britain is so well known, and of which our present Prime Minister is so apt a pupil. On the occasion of his last visit to England, the Prime Minister soldhimself to the Northcliffe press. That fact has been published in glaring language, and it is now stated that Mr. Lloyd George is nothing but the puppet of the Northcliffe press. He is dominated by Lord Northcliffe, Lord Beaverbrook, and Lord Rothermore. These men, and not the Parliament, are the real rulers of Great Britain.
Mr.Watt. - I think it is scandalous that the honorable member should talk like that of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Whatever he may wish to say about our own Prime Minister, he ought to leave the British Prime Minister alone.
– Well, I should like to read what a London paper said about Mr. Lloyd George. It is contained in an extract under date 22nd December, in the London Herald, and I shall ask honorable members, as I am reading it, to apply it to our own Prime Minister. They will realize that there is not much difference between the two -
He cannot make war. He will not make peace. He neither will nor can make anythingbut speeches.
Mr. Garvin tellsus that Mr. Lloyd George’s last speech was as valuable to the Allies as a military victory. It is a pity we cannot exchange it for one. We could believe in a victory.
Mr. Lloyd George has just completed a year in office as Prime Minister. He has held the highest position in the biggest Empire in the world, with greater powers and greater opportunities than any man has ever had before in recorded history. He has abused every power, and missed every opportunity.
He does not trust the people, and the people do not trust him. He tells us that the enemy are being beaten and are whining for peace, and twelve months afterwards he tells us that they are at the height of their boastful power. He tells us that he has effected complete harmony and co-ordination with the Allies, and twelve months afterwards he tells us that that unity was all pure make-believe. (At any rate, he will never make us believe anything again. ) He tells us that he has no further fear of the submarine, and a few days afterwards his First Lord of the Admiralty tells us that the submarine menace, though held, is not mastered. He boasts that on a certain day we destroyed five submarines, and a few days afterwards his First Lord of the Admiralty has publicly to deprecate the drawing of deductions, not merely from any one day, but from any one week or month.
– Who said that?
– I am quoting from an article in the London Herald.
– The London Herald?
– Yes. The honorable member should not overlook the outstanding fact that it is one of the newspapers which reflect the views of the masses of the people of England.
– What, the London Herald! I have been in London a good many times, but I have never once seen it.
– I believe there are plenty of persons in Queensland who hare heard of the Courier newspaper in Brisbane, but to whom the idea of spending a penny upon the Standard has never occurred. May I be permitted to illustrate how very unreliable our Prime Minister really is? Last year he told us that the war would be over in July of that year. Of course it is easy enough to find cover for that statement by reason of the position which has since been brought about in Russia. No doubt Russia provides a very satisfactory excuse for the prolongation of the war. But my point is that last year the Prime Minister was emphatic in his declaration that the war would end in July. Yet on last Saturday evening, in a speech which he delivered at Bendigo, the right honorable gentleman declared that the war position is desperate. /
– Is it not ?
– It is pretty bad, but I do not think it has. ever been as bad as the Prime Minister has endeavoured to make it appear. At one time he said that we were being overwhelmed because of our lack of men, when every authority of any military renown waa affirming that we had a numerical superiority of at least two to one.
– How much worse does the honorable member want the position to be?
– I am not saying that it is good. The Prime Minister, on Saturday night last, told his constituents that is was desperate. Yet to-day, in this chamber, he informed us that he did not want to alarm the people- that the position is not so desperate as some folks imagine. But who is to blame if the people have grown alarmed during the past few days?
In the Age of Saturday last there was an article which said that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) had announced that it was proposed to immediately increase the strength of the Citizen Forces by calling up 40,000 men. No time was to be lost in calling up these men between the ages of 21 and 50 years of age! Naturally the people of Australia asked, “ What is the particular reason for calling up these men?” If there is a clanger threatening Australia no delay will be experienced in securing the men for its defence. Then on the 23rd inst., the Age stated that “ the uneasiness of the De fence authorities had been intensified by certain evidence that has come before them since Saturday morning,” and in the evening newspaper of that day the Minister stated that “ there was no need for alarm.” Conflicting announcements of this character are more disturbing than anything else f can be. If Australia is in danger, is there any reason why we should not know it? Are we not prepared to throw in the whole of our weight if danger threatens us?
– Does not danger threaten ?
– The danger that is suggested by the articles from which I have quoted is not the danger which threatens us overseas. According to any honest interpretation which may be put upon the statements which I have read, there is a local danger threatening us.’ We know that there is a danger threatening us overseas. None of us can forget it. We realize it - every man of us. But if there is a local danger threatening us such as the Minister for Defence suggests, is there any reason why we should not know it? What is the reason for calling up 40,000 men in Australia for home defence. I give the Minister an opportunity to deny my statement when I say that I believe the reason is to be found in a desire to bring about a lot of artificially-created vacancies, so as to find room for returned soldiers. I think Parliament is entitled to know why business is to be disturbed by the calling up nf these men unless there is a local danger threatening us. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) suggests that the people do not realize the danger. May I remind him that the Recruiting Conference which was recently held at Government House unanimously adopted a resolution which recognised that danger. That resolution reads -
That this Conference, meeting at a time of unparalleled emergency, resolves to make all possible efforts to avert defeat at the hands of German militarism, and urges the people of Australia to join in a whole-hearted effort to secure the necessary reinforcements under the voluntary system.
This afternoon the Prime Minister, either inadvertently or carelessly, made a statement which lends colour to the idea that that Conference was a politically arranged one, and that the GovernorGeneral acted at the instigation of the Government.
– What did he saywhich suggested that?
– He said that the Government had invited honorable members opposite to meet them in conference.
– That was a slip.
– If it had ever been suspected that the Governor-General had acted other than of his own volition, Labour representatives would not have attended that gathering.
– I do not think that the bona fides of the Governor-General in the matter has been questioned.
– It was because the invitations were issued by the GovernorGeneral that a Conference was able to be convened in such a representative capacity. I believe that that gathering accomplished very useful work. If the Government will stand to the suggestions that were made, they will break down a good deal of the friction and disturbance that havebeen manifestedin Australia.
-This amendment does not represent the beginning, does it?
– I do not think it is necessary to suggest that this amendment is in any way antagonistic to recruiting, or that it violates the spirit of the Recruiting Conference which was recently held. If so, it wouldbe a most unfortunate thing, because it would make us believe that, after all, the Conference was a political one.
– Apart from that, the amendment can be interpreted asa counter-move.
– There is no suggestion of that.
– Then, what is the object of it ?
– Its object is to show that we do not believe the Prime Minister can properly represent the views of the people of Australia on account of his past conduct.
– But he has gone.
– And , therefore, should we say nothing about it ? May I remind honorable members that at Bendigo last Saturday night the Prime Minister said, “He deprecated any suggestion that the Labour party were responsible for any failure in recruiting. His remarks were not directed against Labour or the Labourparty any more than against any other party. He hoped he would no longer hear Nationalists speak of Labour men as if they were more responsible than other men for the failure of recruiting.” He expressed the hope that there would be no more recrimination. We refuse to accept the blame for the failure of recruiting. We say that the Prime Minister is to blame for that failure.
– No recrimination !
– The Prime Minister said that there should be no recrimination, and yet to-day he attempted to throw upon us the responsibility for the failure to bring about harmony in this country. He made one of his emotional appeals to us to come and join him. Let the Government give evidence of their repentance and future good conduct. How can we be expected to associate ourselves with the Prime Minister, who has never faltered in denouncing us from one end of the country to the other?
– You said just now that he did not do that at Bendigo on Saturday night.
– No. Evidently he was in a repentant mood. I wish that the same mood had prompted him to repeat here to-daywhat he said on that occasion.
– Then let us all be in a repentant mood.
-One remark was made by the Prime Minister to-day which cannotbe substantiated. He said that on the occasion of the first referendum Mr. Fisher had wished him God -speed. I refuse to believe that.
– He wasreferring to one of the Constitution Alteration referendums.
– He could not have been doing that, because that referendum was withdrawn at the request of Mr. Hughes when he was Prime Minister.
– He was referring to the second one.
- Mr. Fisher was here when both constitutional referendums were taken.
– No. He was on the water when the second referendum was taken.
– He was on the water when the proposed third referendum was withdrawn. I say Amen to the paragraph in the Ministerial statement which reads -
The Governmenthas reason tobelieve that its proposals relatingto voluntary recruiting will thus he stimulated,, and that, by the cooperation of all classes in the community, the desired reinforcements will be forthcoming.
I can speak only for myself, but I most earnestly hope ((hat tlie results of the Recruiting Conference “will be thoroughly satisfactory from every point of view. If honorable members opposite will give the Labour party credit for a rea2 desire” to do the best for Australia, although we may not -see eye to eye with them in regard to ali the methods and operations, of government, I believe something satisfactory can be accomplished.
I propose now to refer to one or two other matters in the policy speech. In the first place, I wish to bring undernotice the various councils and- committees that are being formed by this Government. ‘The policy speech details no fewer than six of these - an InterStateCentral Committee to deal with shipping; a Council of Defence’; a FinanceCouncil;, a Repatriation Commission; a Council of Trade and- Commerce-;, and a General ‘Council of Commence and Industry. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams)- made a very satisfactory and, I think, very helpful suggestion, the adoption of which would- go a long way towards bridging over much of the- misunderstanding existing- between the two parties, when he: said that places should be found on some of these Councils’ for members of this House. The country has delegated *to Parliament the responsibility of carrying on its’ affairs; but members of. Parliament, with’ the exception of Ministers, are studiously excluded, from active participation in the government of the country. There is no place for them,, even on Board’s where some, members with special expert knowledge* would, be of value..
A good deal of trouble has been created by the Defence administration. We had a fa My strong debate on that subject, last week, and I read in the press that the Council of Defence has since held a meeting. At. that meeting there were present the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), the Honorary Minister (Mr. Poynton), representing the Navy; MajorGeneral Legge, representing the Military arm of the Service; Sir William’ Creswell, Admiral of the Fleet; Captain Thring, Mr. Swinburne, and Mr. Brookes.
– Mr. Brookes is on every Board.
– I propose later on to refer to him.. I have no objection to any of these gentlemen, but it cannot be denied that only one point of view can be expressed on the Council as- constituted. The Council of Defence can see- in only one direction. There- is not one- of these men on the Council of Defence- who. is not a declared conscriptionist and a declared Imperialist. Itf there is to- be harmony, we must make, at any rate, some concession to. each other’s views. We must give consideration to those who differ from us, and believe that, after all,, they may be able to offer helpful and useful suggestions. The honorable member for1 Franklin urged that on the1 Shipping Board, for instance, there should be some members of this House. It would be of great advantage to the Government, and,, to an extent, would rob the Opposition, of a good deal of their power of criticism, if on all these Council’s, there was. a representative of the Opposition and also a supporter of the Government. As iti is, the Government are- represented on these Boards through their Ministers, as they ought to be ;. their expert officers’ are also there, as they ought to be-;- but surely thereshould also be representatives of the Opposition on the Council of Defence,, the Finance Committee, and especially on theCommittees dealing, with, trade and industry. We have,, after all, our point of view,, and that point of view has- .been approved in no uncertain manner by the people of Australia. We represent a larger section of the people than our numbers would indicate. Our views- are- held by a very large number of the people- of Australia who are directly interested in the operations with which these. Committees are designed to- deal, and, as the Prime Minister has said, the Government must have the support and the cooperation of the Labour organizations if they are going to carry on successfully the government of the ‘ country and its war work. Hot, oan- that he secured unless’ Labour members in this Parliament, or their representatives outside, are given some consideration in the appointments that are being made- to these Councils or Boards?
I’ have not the honour of a personal acquaintance with **r. Brookes, but I know him as a keen critic of the Labour party, and as one who, in attacking it, has indulged in the strongest invective. I have here a report of a speech that he delivered in 1914 at the annual meeting of the Chamber of Manufactures - a speech full of venom and bitterness. In that speech he spoke of the Labour party in the most abusive terms. He criticised the President of the Industrial Court in a most vicious way, and went on to say -
The one-time industrial conflict had now beer made a political dispute. The Trades Hall,’ once the centre of industrial unionism, had become a political institution, and trade unions were being fast supplanted by political labour ‘ unions, whose objective was nothing less and nothing more than the control of the whole mechanism of the State. It set more store by its rules and regulations than the laws of the State. . . . Brutality and ferocity and terrorism were the weapons of this new religion.
In another part “of his speech he referred to Socialism -
Socialism was philosophically unsound, ethically vicious, and economically a suicidal creed. Applied Socialism* had been proved in New Australia and at Cosme to be the worst possible social system for present humanity, a degradation, a snare, and a curse. Manufacturers and other employers were the sacrifice that was to be offered up to this great god, Moloch, and the sooner they realized it, the quicker they would kick before these cannibals got them in the pot. Politicians could be trusted to lead the fighting line, but the employers must get behind and. push to keep out of the hell of Socialism.
And this is the man who is chosen by the Government for special favours in helping them to carry on the affairs of the country.
– The Government did him no favour; he did the Government a favour.
– At all events, the Opposition should have a chance to give expression to their views on these Boards, just as Mr. Brookes has an opportunity to express his own. How can we hope for satisfactory results leading to the linking up of the unions in any cooperative effort while a man who is at the head of affairs, and is asking for cooperation, talks as Mr. Brookes has done?’ I was greatly interested in learning that the present President of the Victorian Employers’ Federation, Mr. Keep, had spoken to something like the same effect as recently as the 9th inst. Mr. Keep then denounced the unions, and suggested that wages should be arranged according to a man’s appetite rather than to his ability to work. It is peculiar that in juxtaposition to the report of Mr. Keep’s speech there appeared a paragraph telegraphed from Sydney, stating that General Jobson, the President of the Returned Soldiers’ Association, after referring to the attempt to induce members of the Chamber of Manufactures and the Chamber of Commerce to nominate men who would give up their time to recruiting, had said -
If the employers were to really take the thing up, and a strong working committee were established, better results would be obtained. The recruiting officer does his best, but he gets no assistance. It is time the war came first and business next.
And yet the taunt is continually thrown out that Labour is responsible for failure to get sufficient reinforcements, or for the delay in shipbuilding operations, and in so developing the industries of Australia as to assist in carrying on the war.
One of the most peculiar facts that I have come across lately relates to a suggestion made by the Prime Minister when he convened a conference of representatives of Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures in order to lay before them his scheme for a general council of commerce and industry. The representative of the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Sachs, furnished to the Chamber a report of the Conference, in which he said -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had admitted that the scheme was based on Benn, whom he had met in England. “ Benn,” said Mi”. Sachs, “ had been a British manufacturer in Austria, and was therefore well qualified to indulge in destructive criticism of our lack of organization, and still, as he was familiar with the German and Austrian system, was. capable of suggesting a decent scheme. As far as I could see, no one else had read that book. This resulted in my talking very much to the point, and, as Mr. Hughes was present all the time, he. guided the show along, and we got through pretty fast. After some discussion, I moved that the scheme be made self-supporting by a levy of 1 per cent, on the turnover, or something of that sort.”
And so the scheme that the Prime Minister put before the public for the reorganization of industry and the establishment of a Bureau of Commerce and Industry is based upon a book founded upon the German or Austrian system:
– There is nothing surprising in that. The whole of our University examinations in medicine are still based on a German text-book.
– I believe that to be true. It is true that before the war the whole of our British universities were impregnated with German philosophy and , German teaching. Everything German was then all right. Even education was not considered complete until a diploma had been secured from a German university.
– The name “ Sachs “ does not suggest British origin.
– I think the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce could be trusted to select a representative in whom it could rely. The scheme suggested by the Prime Minister is none the worse for the fact that it is based on the German or Austrian system.
– But the honor.able member’s statement is based, presumably, ou the statement of a German or an Austrian.
– I do not follow the honorable member’s argument. Here we have put forward by the Prime Minister a definite scheme for the organization of industry, based upon a book written by Mr. Benn - a book which in itself was based upon a scheme for the organization of industry and commerce to which Great Britain has, unfortunately, been a stranger. Germany made its way in the world, and climbed to the position it occupied prior to the War, by reason of the organization of its industry. In that way, it has been able to beat the British manufacturer in British communities. The Prime Minister was quite right in suggesting to-day that we should so organize our industries that the danger threatening us before the war - the danger of being simply an economic vassal of Germany - would not be resurrected. By that means, he suggested, the danger would be avoided. I know of no better way of averting it than the suggestion of the Government; but the scheme will break down if, as I have already said, only the one point of view is to be represented on these Committees. You are going to get only the employers’ view. But history teaches that, unless you can get the best wisdom and advice of all sections of the community, you cannot hope for success.
– The scheme advocated by Mr. Benn, who is a very high authority, embraces all classes.
– It is .remarkable that the Prime Minister should put forward that scheme, and refuse to carry it out immediately it touches the possibility of allowing the workers themselves to have a say in the organization.
– The honorable member knows. that the Government invited the assistance of the trade union representatives.
– They were asked for their co-operation, and invited to send representatives.
– I am alluding to the General Council of Commerce and Industry.
– Representatives of unione were invited, and attended; I saw them there myself. But they walked out.
– It is they who are to blame if the unions are not represented.
– I must accept the statement of the Minister (Mr. Jensen), but I know that the Labour representatives would not have withdrawn from the Council without what were, in their opinion, good reasons. There is, however, no reason why both parties in this House should not be represented.
– That is quite a different thing.
– We want them there.
– These bodies should be composed of men from both parties, because we are here in a representative capacity, and are the guardians of the public good. Ministers would go a long way to bring about that harmony which they profess to desire if they invited the members of this party to associate with them in carrying out these big administrative functions.
– Can you guarantee that they would be permitted to accept appointments ?
– When the PostmasterGeneral was a member of the Labour party, was he permitted to do anything, or was he just a puppet ?
– When I was a member of the party we were free. Honorable members opposite robbed us of that freedom.
– Give my union a chance to be represented, and it will take it.
– The PostmasterGeneral is not free to come back to this partyand find out whether we still possess liberty of action. He knows that he was not interfered with while a member of the Labour party, and I assure himthatthere is no more interference with its members now than there was then. I am notconscious of, and have seen no evidence of, such interference. But there is evidence that thePostmaster-General himself is not a free agent now. I hope that the friendly offers and suggestions of the Prime Minister will not be forgotten while he is away, and that the Acting Prime Minister, whom I am glad to see in his place, because I think we shall have a good time with him, will remember the clear and emphatic statement of his chief that the Government would stand to its promises in regard to all matters discussed at the Conference. If the Government will do that, and, by its repeal of the many administrative acts that have caused friction, give evidence of its desire for harmony, it will do good work for Australia.
.Honorable members have all received a copy ofStatutory Rule 88, which contains the regulations that constitute the repatriation scheme which has been formulated by the recently appointed Commission and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Milieu). These regulations, together with the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Bills introduced in the various States, constitute the whole of Australia’s repatriation legislation, and may betaken to stand for our repatriation scheme. I have no desire to speak to the amendment, which I regard as a waste of time. The Prime Ministerhaving left for England, what is the good ofdiscussing an amendment which says that he shall not go?With all deference to the Minister for Repatriation, the Commission, and the various State Boards, I am extremely disappointed with the repatriation proposals, not somuch for what they contain as for whattheyomit. I leave aside the land proposals, which, by an arrangementbetween the Commonwealth and the States, havebeen taken over by the Statesindivi- dually. It would not be in good taste to discuss in this Chamber the administration of the Lands Departments of the States,and I do not propose to say more concerning it than that I have been in the closest possible touch with the Victorian Minister for Lands and the Victorian Ac quisition Board, and with the various branches of administration in this State. Until the 8th April, in connexionwith repatriation, everything except land settlement was done by the State War Councils, : and so fax as myexperience goes, much more favorable terms could be arranged for returned soldiers with them thancan be obtainedunder the new administration. I do not know where the blame rests, and am not seeking to take it off any one’s shoulders, nordo I level any charge,myobject being merely to point out what is dealtwith under these regulations, and, what has been omitted. Let me proceed to classify them.First, we have those dealing with administration, which, of course, is by theCentral Commission, passing down by a system of devolution to the State Boards and the local committees. On the industrial side extensive machinery has been forged to deal with those returned men who, unfortunately, have suffered injury at the war, and, according to medical opinion, are unable to continue their old advocations. Where men areable to follow their old avocations, no responsibility isundertaken by the CommonwealthGovernment, but men whose injuries have unfitted them for their former work are given the opportunity, under a system of vocational training, to learn a new trade, or craft, or calling, fairlyliberalsustenancebeing provided duringtheperiod in which they are being taught. But there is no provision for meeting the thousands ofcasesof young fellows who went tothe war just as they wereblossoming out into life, and ready to start some littlebusiness . or enter upon some trade or calling. There aremany small businesses which men with initiative wouldbe able toConduct.
Section 60, which is practically the kernel oftheseregulations,provides -
A State Board maymake advancesby way of loan forthe purchase of approved businesses, plant, stock, andlive stock, not exceeding £150 in eachcase, to -
I wish honorable members to note that provision is made forthreeclasses only. Thereis an absolute absence throughout the regulations of aprovision to meet othercases -
Certainly section 57 provides that a grant up to £25 may be made to a widow in necessitous circumstances with children, and also to a totally incapacitated soldier to acquire furniture. A grant of £10 may be made to buy tools of trade, or, subject to the Board’s approval, up to £50 for the same purpose; but there is no other provision in the regulations enabling a soldier to start in life. A case came under my notice the other day. Three brothers, returned soldiers, wanted to make a start in a country town. One of them was an experienced baker. He wished to carry on the baking part of a business, and employ one brother on the cart and the other in the shop. A small business was under offer to them at a reasonable price. One brother enlisted from my own electorate, and under a movement we have there we were prepared to give him certain assistance, which we do not by loan, “but by way of absolute gift, but on inquiry we found that there was absolutely no provision in the scheme to give the brother who was a baker the slightest assistance. The same applies to every soldier in the Commonwealth who wants to start in some small business on his return. I have mentioned the only three cases that can be assisted financially. The only other cases for whom provision has been made to enable them to start in any sort of business are a widow with one or more children, a married soldier incapacitated to the extent of being unable to engage in his usual employment, and a soldier who prior to enlistment was dependent for a living on a business which he owned and conducted.
I would draw the attention of the Acting Leader of the Government (Mr. Watt) to the very wide discrimination that Australia is setting out to make amongst its returned soldiers. Victoria has fairly reasonably grappled with this problem, and sets out to do something tangible for land settlement, but it has been estimated that less than 10 per cent. of the returned soldiers will desire to settle on the land, and reasonable provision is badly needed for the great body of men who desire to start in a small way in one of the many great ramifications of trade and commerce. Under the land settlement scheme, any soldier, subject to passing the qualification test, may acquire land up to a total value of £2,500, but thousands of deserving decent young men, having fought the battles of their country abroad, and returning to a grateful country, many of them desiring to fulfil contracts of marriage - and there is a great’ disposition on the part of returned men to settle down - find in the regulations, no provision to advance them £1 to acquire their homes. Why do we set out to settle one branch of our returned soldiers on the land and leave it a general scramble for the rest? I give the Acting Leader of the House my positive assurance that I have no desire to take up a carping attitude. I have spent two and a half years at close grips with this subject. In our district we have established sixty odd local committees. We have been acting in close touch with the State War Councils on the most friendly terms of co-operation, and with the discharged soldiers’ body under the Land Act’. Many earnest persons are devoting their best energies to advance the settlement of returned men, but there has been a grave omission in not making wider provisions. In our district we have adopted this system : With the consent of the Government, we have raised many thousands of pounds. The money is vested in local committees, who have absolute power, subject to a very reasonable constitution, to determine the case of every soldier. They know the men, having seen them grow up, and know what they are fitted for. By giving a cash advance, and in co-operation with the. War Council, they have been able to establish many young fellows in their own homes. We have also been able to establish widows in their own homes, but there is no provision in these regulations to assist a widow into her own home. It may be said that she gets a pension for herself and children, but that will barely keep body and soul together.
– I only know of one widow who has been settled in Victoria as against 700 in New South Wales,at a rent of1s. a year.
Mr.RODGERS. - I can show the honorable member forty or fifty settled by us in our district.
The Minister and his advisers have grappled very fully with the industrial side of the matter. Very full regulations have been made to deal with work, vocational training, sustenance allowance, and the industrial side of repatriation generally, but we have to look principally to the more productive side of repatriation, particularly the land and business parts, to help the scheme forward.
– Having had two and a half years’ experience, were you asked for any suggestions in framing the regulations ?
– No, but I wrote to the Government offering them my services, free of charge, in the Commonwealth at any time during the period connected with repatriation. My letter was not acknowledged.
– When was this?
– After the Nationalist Government was formed, I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and to the Leader of the Liberal party, offering to place my services at the disposal of the Government for the period of the war without any charge whatsoever, and I had an interview for two hours with the Minister in charge .of Repatriation at that time, at ..which I made the same offer. Since then, I have been only too pleased, at any time, to offer any suggestions. I do not blame the Government for not having sought from me any information that might have been at my disposal. *
We cannot allow these regulations to stand as Australia’s sense of her duty to her fighting sons. Honorable members will remember that when the proposal came forward to allow a Board of comparatively unknown men to arrange the repatriation scheme, I took strong exception to it. The claim was made that it was humanly impossible for a deliberative Chamber like this to draft a scheme; but I maintain that there would not be the grave omissions in that which has been submitted to us had honorable members first been given the opportunity to discuss it. On the occasion on which honorable members had the Bill before them, we sat until 3 o’clock in the morning endeavouring to have some amendments made in the Bill . The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) was very busy that morning in seeking to have some amendments made in the Bill.
– I thought we sat later than 3 o’clock in- the morning.
– I remind the Leader of the Opposition that among the gentle men nominated to the Board was a member of his own party.
– I think that he was the only Labour man appointed among the hundreds of Boards that have been formed.
– My criticism against the Board does not particularly refer to the Ministry. On the contrary, there are two returned soldiers on the Board ; therefore, my remarks are not uttered in any carping spirit.
I would like to see the Government call a Convention to deal with the matter. They have not gripped it properly. We will not get local committees to take on the work when all they can deal with is: A widow with more than one child ; married soldiers incapacitated; and soldiers who, prior to enlistment, had businesses on which they were dependent. If all the other thousands cannot be dealt with, who will form the local committees ?
– I do riot think that a Convention would be the best method of dealing with the matter.
– Then let us have some form pf elected convention.
– Is not Parliament an elected convention?
– But Parliament previously declined to handle the. matter.
– Parliament will have to handle it.
– The subject has not been handled. This scheme does not reflect Australia’s good-will to her. fighting men; it is not a fair return to men who, while we have been enjoying three of the best years in Australia-‘s history, have stood out in the battlefield risking their lives and meeting with disablement. Men whose earning power can never be what it was before, men who had bright and brilliant careers in their grasp, come back only to be told that if they are not fitted for their previous vocations, they can take up some form of vocational training. These men may have ambitions and desires, and may wish to set out in various walks of life.
There is too much in the seventy-five sections to traverse in detail, and I ask the Leader of the House to set apart a day, or, if necessary, a week, in order that honorable members may debate the whole of them. Let honorable members concentrate their thoughts upon them so that they may do justice to the men who have done so much for us. Our attitude towards the troops who are departing is one of glory and good send-offs. If the same interest were taken in the men when they come back it would vastly stimulate recruiting.’
– Unless the honorable member gives notice in regard to this regulation it may become the law.
– When the Bill was under discussion I pointed out, probably ad nauseam, so far as honorable members are concerned, that we would have a host of regulations thrown at us which would become the law. Of course, we have certain rights of disallowance.
– Can the honorable member tell me one occasion during the last seventeen years on which we have had an opportunity of discussing any regulation ?
– That does not disprove the accuracy of my statement that Parliament has the power to disallow any regulation within a prescribed time. It certainly rests with the Government to give Parliament the opportunity to do bo.
– The honorable member is theoretically right.
– But practically wrong. Here is the provision to deal with men who, prior to their discharge, owned property. It does not refer to broad acres. They come under the control of the States. Sections 52 and 53 read as follow: -
W’here an incapacitated soldier, or his wife, or the widow of a soldier, is in possession of a property used by him or her as a home, which is encumbered by a mortgage effected prior to the discharge of the soldier, a State Board may, in order to facilitate the transfer of the mortgage to such institution as the Minister approves, advance the difference, between the value of the mortgagor’s interest and 25 per cent, of the total value of the property; but such advance in any one case shall not exceed £150.
Where a soldier who is not incapacitated, or his wife, is in possession of a property used by him or her as a home, which is encumbered by a mortgage effected prior to the discharge of the soldier, a State Board may, in order to facilitate the transfer of the mortgage to such institution as the Minister approves, advance the difference between the value of the mortgagor’s interest and 25 -per cent, of the total value of the property; but such advance in any one case shall not exceed £75. ,
If a property owned by an incapacitated soldier is worth £100, and there was a mortgage on it prior to his discharge, the (Commonwealth may advance up to £25 in order to bring the equity to a certain point, which will enable a private institution to take over the balance on mortgage. If the incapacitated soldier has an equity of £15 the Commonwealth may advance £10, making the equity £25. But that £10 has to be repaid, and becomes a charge on the property.
– It is practically a second mortgage.
– No ; the. Minister for Repatriation has been careful in that regard. It is not a second mortgage, but it will be merged into the first mortgage, making, as it were, a joint first mortgage. In addition, a widow or a totally incapacitated soldier may have £25 for furniture, but there is no provision for helping a young soldier to get any assistance. There was an arrangement during the administrative period, of the State War Councils under which we were enabled to render admirable assistance. We advanced £50, and the War Councils advanced £70, to a widow as an absolute gift, and we arranged for the balance of £75 to be obtained on the Credit Foncier system. However, all that is now done away with, and there is no provision to enable a young soldier to pay a deposit on a house or a business, or to/enable a widow to provide a home or furniture. There is an absolute absence of any scheme to start a young man. in life, and if honorable members opposite are content that, so far as returned soldiers are concerned, a man, once in the ranks of labour, shall always remain there, they are not, in my judgment, doing a fair thing.
– Would you assist a man to obtain a wife at the same time?
– I would soon find a man a wife.
I am. sorry to trouble the Leader of the House so often, but’ I must tell him to-night that, when once these regulations are known, they will give a shock to the public conscience. I venture to say that they are not known to 1 per cent, of the returned soldiers or the people generally; indeed, I do not think there are many honorable members who have thoroughly digested them. I shall be no party to any scheme under which the men, who have done so much for us. will suffer to the extent they have suffered in the past. The circumstances are such that the non-combatants of this country, who have enjoyed the benefits of trade, commerce, and production, and. the benefits of freedom and safety for three years, ought to, “shell out,” either by means of loans or by taxation. If there is to be taxation, let it be “ thumping “ taxation for the benefit of the men who have fought for us.
– You will have the support of members on this side in any effort of that kind.
Mr.RODGERS.- And I shall stand to what I say now. If we meet the transports, or go to the Base Hospital, or the institution at Jolimont, we see men hobbling around, while the rest of the community are not only enjoying perfect health, but greater prosperity than ever before. I hope that Parliament will wake up, and see that provision worthy of Australia is made for our fighting men.
.- I support the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). I do not know whether to sit down and mourn over the departure of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) or whether to congratulate Australia on his absence for, at all events, a few months. I think, however, that we may shake hands with ourselves on the fact of his departure, and I sincerely hope that those people who so closely followed him on his visit to the Old Country - the dukes and the duchesses - will take him by the arm an this occasion in recognition of bis ability. It is strange to think that for five weeks the members of the Opposition have been trying to ascertain from the Prime Minister whether he intended to go to this Conference or not, and have been unable to get any definite answer until to-day. This afternoon the right honorable gentleman suddenly came into the chamber, made a speech in reply to that of the Leader of the Opposition, and immediately left, without asking the members on this side whether they had any suggestions to make. He did not give them an opportunity to even inquire whether they could be of service to him on this occasion. I take it for granted that members on this side are just as capable of constructive thought as are honorable members opposite, for I should not like to assume for a moment that the Government possess the whole of the brains of the Parliament.
When the Governor-General convened the recent Conference of the various political parties and organizations, the Prime
Minister had no policy to lay before it after His Excellency had delivered his opening speech. It was left to the Leader of the Opposition to lay down a policy, with the result that the Prime Minister came into the chamber this afternoon, and said he was prepared to accept every suggestion by the Labour leader. The Prime Minister told us that one of the most important subjects discussed at the Conference was whether or not the country should be free from every sort of conscription, whether straight-out or by means’ of economic pressure, and he assured us - “ Conscription is. completely abandoned; I have not. the slightest desire to again mention it.” I hope that the Prime Minister is sincere in that statement, for, astounding as it may appear, we find that at the present moment economic conscription is in operation in Australia. A great number of private firms and large companies are enforcing it to the fullest possible extent, and, in face of that fact, it is strange to hear the Prime Minister say that under no. circumstances will he tolerate it. In this connexion I should like to read an extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 22nd of the present month -
to Release Single Men. empire’s needs first.
The greatly increased urgency of the need for men at the Front, owing to the present German offensive, has caused some firms in the city to review their staffs, and bring before any remaining single eligible men in a forcible manner the duty which devolves upon them in the present hour of national peril.
In the case of one wellknown engineering firm - Messrs. Massey-Harris and. Co. Ltd.! - a letter was issued to ten men who were considered to be in this category, informing them that the firm felt compelled to release all their single men for the service of the Empire. With these men, as with all their employees, the firm undertake to make up the difference between the military pay and that received by them while in the firm’s employ, and in the case of one of the men in question, who has since enlisted, they have undertaken to pay an insurance premium in respect of him during the period that he is away. One of the men to whom the letter was addressed obtained a medical certificate of rejection, and was immediately replaced on the staff.
The letter, which was signed by the management, was as follows: - “We beg to notify you that your services will not be required by this company after Tuesday, the 23rd instant. We exceedingly regret having to adopt this course, but we must release all our single men for. the service of the Empire. We feel that every one who is of military age and. medical fitness, and who can be ofservice to our country, should be available, as every man is urgently needed. Therefore we would not like to think that any actionof ours would withhold one single man from the service of theEmpire in her hour of need. We have no alternative but to adopt this course.”
If that is not aform ofeconomic conscription, Idonot know what it is.
– It is dated23rd April. It doesnot matterwhetherthese menhave been replaced by returned soldiers or not; the fact remains that economic conscription is being applied.
– Did not the honorable member read in the same paper that the Employers Federation had refused to indorse that action?
– Both Massey-Harris andCompany and Anthony Hordern and Son have adopted this policy. On every pay-day Anthony Hordern and Son hand to the eligible single men a pay-docket on which are the words, ‘ ‘ Your country needs you ; we do not. “ While these firms are compelling these men by a threat of starvation to enlist against their will, because they may have conscientious objections to military service, will they replace the discharged men by returned soldiers and other men who are not eligible, or will they have the same amount of work carried out by a smaller staff ? This system enables a number offirms, large and small, to reduce their hands, and create a sweating and speeding-up system by having the work carried outby a lesser number of employees.One of the first steps of the Government should be to declare that no firm shall be permitted to sweat its employees under the conditions which exist to-day. The same practice is in operation with other firms throughout Australia. There may be a fewfirms that are not in the happy position of being able to replace their eligible employees with other men, but where the employer can get older men at a lesser rate than he is paying eligible men, he accepts them, and economically conscripts the eligible young men.
– The honorable member does not make that allegation against all employers?
– My remarks apply to the majority of employers. They have availed themselves of war time to make immense profits. They are’’ making hay while the sun shines.”I heardthe Prime Minister declare in this House many months ago thatthere are two classes of men whom he would abolish altogether - those men who are disloyal, and those who are takingadvantage of the war to make immense profits. How many of the men whoaremaking profits out of the war have been dealt with? And how many of those menareforcing the Prime Minister to represent Australia at the Imperial Conference ? I am opposed to the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy (Mr.Cook) attending the Conference, because they do not represent, and are incapable of expressing, the views and desires of the Australian people.
– Last May they represented the people all right.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the fact of the Win- the-war party being returned to power in May last is proof that that party has the confidence of the people to-day?
– Yes, we have.
– The honorable member does not mean to say that the Win-the-war party were returned to power on a fair andequitable vote?
-Did not the National party adopt the most unscrupulous methods ever used in any fight inthe world?
– I never heard of any such methods.
– In the last general election campaign, the National party alleged that the Labour partywas disloyal,and comprised pro-Germans and SinnFeiners. Werewe deserving of those insults ?
– Thehonorable member was not, certainly.
– The National party insulted us in every possible way, yet at the first subsequent opportunity the Prime Minister asked us to shake hands and be friends again.
– Quite right.
Mr.NICHOLLS. - I do not think it was quiteright. For the reasons I have mentioned, we are opposed to the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy representing Australia at the Imperial Conference.
– Whom do you suggest as delegates ?
– We would send the honorable member.
– I would be loyal if I went, at any rate.
– I know the honorable member would; but I do not know whether he would be allowed to come back. His return would be a matter for future consideration.
– Does the honorable member blame the Prime Minister for economic conscription?
– The Prime Minister said, at the Recruiting Conference at Government House, “ I will give you anything you like, provided you will join hands with us.” Did not the right honorable gentleman stand up here this afternoon and make a most emotional and hysterical speech? He was almost on the verge of tears, and as much as said that if he were sitting on this side he would be the happiest man in the House. That is exactly the Prime Minister’s thought at the present time. I do not think any one takes very grave exception to the Minister for the Navy representing Australia at the Imperial Conference, because he is like a chip in porridge - he is of no use, but he will do no harm. I do not think he will do very much damage, and the trip may do him the world of good, even if it is made at the expense of the taxpayers. During the last eighteen months or two years the Government have been preaching economy.
– They were elected to practise economy.
– They were elected upon a so-called policy of economy, but they have sent two men away from Australia at the expense of the Australian people. They have created offices for scores of men, and, whether those men are fully paid or not, their employment has involved a certain amount of expense.
I want to refer for a moment to a part of the Ministerial statement, in order to inquire how it affects the workers of the country. We have been looking forward to the adoption of a policy by the Government which would materially assist the, working people. Week after week we have been in hopes that something would be done to enable the workers of this country to obtain the necessaries of life at a lower price than they are required to pay for them at the present time. We have looked to a sympathetic Government to bring that about. In this connexion I quote the following paragraph from the Ministerial statement : -
Finance Council. - In order that the Government may have at its disposal for the purpose of its finance administration the services of the highest financial experts, it is proposed to create a Council of Finance, composed of the Treasurer, the Secretary to the Treasury, representatives of the banks, and representatives of the financial institutions.
Arethere not a sufficient number of members of the Government to form this Council, without calling in the assistance of representatives of the huge financial institutions of the Commonwealth? Are not the representatives of the financial institutions the very people who are responsible for the greatly increased cost of living? It is strange that, in the circumstances, the Government should invite the assistance of representatives of the Chambers of Manufactures, Chambers of Commerce, and the great financial institutions to regulate the prices of the commodities in the sale of which they are interested. It is clear, from the paragraph in the Ministerial statement which I have quoted that any hopes we might have entertained of relief in the matter of the increased cost of living are completely shattered.
The Prime Minister this afternoon gave honorable members certain assurances which I take it for granted the Acting Prime Minister will give effect to. We were assured that things are to be restored to what they were before the last strike, and that victimized men are to be returned to their employment. I assume that this means that coal-miners at present victimized will be given an opportunity to secure re-employment in the mines in which they were employed previous to the strike. The same thing should apply to men who lost their employment in the Railway Department of New South Wales. I hope that, within a short period, the men who lost their employment during the strike will be able to return to work, and that no victimization will remain. I trust that trade unionism generally will revert to the conditions prevailing previous to the strike, and that all bogus unions will be wiped out of existence. If that is brought about, something will have been accomplished which will be of benefit to the workers of this country.
I sincerely hope that, when the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy return, we shall be able to compliment them upon the work they have performed. They may possibly come back with some surprise for us, as great results may accrue from their labours. I may say that, at the present time, honorable members on this side do not expect it. I believe that honorable members apposite do not expect very much either from the visit of the gentlemen named to the Imperial Conference, because they left in a secretsort of fashion, and did not divulge their mission to the rank and file of their party.
I desire before I resume my seat to refer again to a matter I mentioned last week, namely, the provision for the housing of workmen at Lithgow. I am not prepared to rest content in thismatter until I get the assurance of the Minister who has charge of the business that he will have estimates concerning the necessary works placed before the Works Committee, in order that the proposed housing scheme may be brought into operation as soon as passible. It is all very well to say that everything is going on as rapidly as may be, but some assurance should be forthcoming from the Minister concerned that the housing question at Lithgow will be immediately dealt with.
– I desire to refer to the petition presented to the House to-day by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer). The signatories to that petition humbly desire that all the penalties of the law should be exercised against the members of what they are pleased to term the Sinn Fein organization.
-Order! I point out to the honorable member for Barrier that, although very considerable latitude is allowed on a motion such as that before the Chamber, he is proposing to go entirely outside the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. It will not be in order for the honorable member to deal now with the petition to which he has referred.
-I rise to a point of order. I submit that the amendment, in one of its sections, seeks to condemn the
Government for their conduct of affairs during the war.
– It does not say “ during the war.”
– Then for “the conduct of public affairs in Australia.” I further submit that what is known as the Sinn Fein regulation comes within the conduct of affairs by the Government, and, therefore, the honorable member for Barrier is perfectly in order in dealing with that matter as one which bears upon the conduct of the Government to which exception is taken.
-May I, sir, before you rule, ask a question? I have watched with interest the discussion as it has proceeded since the Leader of the Opposition tabled his amendment. I ask whether the discussion is on the amendment, or on the original motion, or on both combined 1 As the discussion has been general, I have assumed that the Chair is dealing with the matter in the same way as the amendment moved in connexion with Supply was dealt with, and that the discussion on motion and amendment are being taken together.
– The honorable member for Cook has raised a point of order that the honorable member for Barrier was quite in order in referring to a petition presented by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) to-day, and he based his point of order on paragraph (c) of the amendment, which reads: “ The conduct of public affairs in Australia.” That is, the conduct of the Government. The petition presented by the honorable member for Echuca was not within the keeping of the Government at all. It was a petition of 80,000 odd citizens of Australia to this Parliament; it has only yet been read, and has not been dealt with. Therefore I rule that the point taken by the honorable member for Cook has no standing.
– In the Ministerial statement there is a paragraph as follows : -
In the face of the common danger, it is not too much to hope that the people of all parts of the Empire - including this Commonwealth - will present a united and unwavering front. One of the methods adopted to secure a united and unwavering front is the issue of this regulation -
Any person who, by word of mouth, or in writing, or by any act or deed -
Advocates, incites, or encourages disloyalty or hostility to the British
Empire, or to the cause of the British Empire in the present war; or
Advocates the dismemberment of the British Empire; or who saysor does anything calculated to incite, encourage or assist such disloyalty or hostility, shall be guilty of an offence under the Act.
Any personwho wears or displays any badge, flag, banner, emblem, or symbol, being, orpurporting to be, thebadge, flag, banner, emblem, or symbol of a country with whichtheKing is now at war, or of anybodyor association who aredisaffected to the British Empire, or of the society, association, or movement known as Sinn Fein, shall be guilty of an offence against the Act.
That is certainly comprehensive. ‘One wonders how members canwith safety go to the billiard-room in the presentdisturbed state of affairs, when one sees the green, white and yellow shades for the tables. However, I suppose it is owing tothe well-known partialityof members of theCabinet for billiards that those shades have been allowed to remain. It appears that this regulation has been brought into operation for some mysterious reason. We have it here that certain persons connected with this movement or organization are a mysterious conglomeration ofpeople termed by this regulation Sinn Feiners. They must be a different sort of people from those answering to the samename in Ireland and England, -because we ‘have the spectacle of the BritishGovernmentallowing people tolabelthemselves Sinn Fein candidates in Ireland and being returned, after competition with Nationalists and others, in various of the Irish constituencies. The “British Government did not issue any regulation to prevent theSinn Feiners in Ireland from expounding their views. As an Irishman, I remember that weread in our history about the Normans coming over and becoming more Irish than the Irish themselves. In Australia it seems that we are becoming more loyal than the British Government themselves. But we must have been dreaming dreams and seeing visions, surely, when we saw the Prime Minister in the state he was in to-day; and it is in those circumstances only that we can account for such regulations as this. Nevertheless, one wonders what the rest of theCabinet are doing when this kind of thinggoeson.
We have the spectacle also of meetings being held throughout the country, and of gentlemen professing their loyalty to theGovernment and the country and the flag, et cetera, at cetera. But the loyalty of some of them is of very recent growth, judging by their utterances not so longago. Mr. Snowball, M.L.A., speaking at the orangepicnic held at the Aspendale racecourse on26th January, 1914, said-
The Empire was drifting rapidly towards something like civil war. In the north of Ireland500,000 men had signed a covenant to die rather than submit to Home Rule. Notwithstanding this the blatant priest-followers talked glibly about having won their tattle - 100,000 men fully armed and prepared to defend the old walls of Derry, and who would not allow Ireland to be handed over to traitors who spat on our Union Jack.
– Order ! I will ask the honorable gentleman not to proceed.
– Why so?
– Will the honorable member resume his seat ? I havealready intimatedthat I am allowing considerable latitude, as has Mr. Speaker also, upon this question. But the debate must be confined to the acts of the Government. ‘The Government are not responsible for what Mr. Snowball or anyother ball outside mayhave said.
– Very good,sir; I will proceed to deal with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) . He is, I understand, the headof the Government,and I suppose I will bein order in dealing with the head oftheGovernment who issued the regulation. At a Home Rule demonstration held on 4th May, 1914,the Honorable William Morris Hughes - I presume it isthis same gentleman - moved thefollowingmotion. -
Thatthis meetingdenounces the treasonable conspiracy, openlyorganized inUlster bycertain landlords andcapitalists, to subvert the army and to resistby armedforce a measure repeatedly passed by large majorities of the duly elected Parliamentary representatives of the people of Great Britain and Ireland.
That this meeting strongly reprobates the mutinous attitude of certain aristocratic army officers, acting in sympathy with a class which threatens armed resistance tothe f orces of the Crown ;especially as army leaders hone shown no reluctance in the past to employ troops to shoot down British workers who demanded a living wage, as well asto suppress reform movements in Ireland, conductedbymeans clearly withinthe Constitution.
In moving this motion, Mr. Hughes said -
Solong as it suited those menthey supported law andorder, but when it threatened them they opposed it, and boasted that they had run guns into Ireland, in spite of Parliament. The people would know how to treat those people’s protestations in the future.
– Whyblame him for that? It was when he wanted the Irish vote for your party.
– Oh, I see.Your insinuation is that the Prime Minister will tout for any vote.Now I come to a statement of Senator Pearce, who said that men who talked of loyalty to the King were fomenting a revolution. Some change has certainly come over the scene since that occurred. Of course, it might be said that these honorable gentlemen changed their attitude when the catastrophe of war burst upon the world.
– The war does make a difference, does it not?
– Yes, inasmuch as the self-same gentlemen who were then prepared to plunge the Empire into civil war to rob Ireland of her constitutional rights accorded to her by a British Parliament in a constitutional manner, are prepared at the present time to plunge Ireland into a civil war on top of this world conflict. In proof of this I quote from the Belfast Newsletter, of 28th August, 1914, when the Germans had broken through Belgium and were marching on Paris -
Sir Edward Carson has repeatedly said that if the Government puts Home Rule on the statute-book the Provisional Government will be set up. We look for fulfilment of this promise.
That was at the time when the Germans were marching on Paris. They were then prepared to set up a Provisional Government for Ulster.
– But what has all this to do with the Commonwealth Government?
– The honorable member ought to know. He was at the meeting in the Exhibition Building.
– Yes,I was.
– But does all this show that the Prime Minister has changed his opinion ?
– Honorable members opposite ought to know that. Surely they do not allow the Government to pass regulations unless they know what they mean.
– But the Prime Minister has done nothing to show that he has changed his views on the Irish question.
– I am showing what they were prepared to do at that time. On the same day the following appeared in the Northern Whig: -
When the Home Rule Bill becomes an Act, three-fourths of the people of Ulster must either become traitors to the covenants which they solemnly signed or rebels to the Crown.
There was no backing and filling about that statement.
– Did the Prime Minister say that?
– Then what bearing has it upon this question?
– I quite understand that the honorable member should not feel very comfortable when I point to a regulation which has been passed by the Ministry that has expressed itself as being willing to go more than halfway to meet the views of those opposed to it in order to bring about unity in Australia. These gentlemen, it appears, are working overtime turning out regulations setting certain sections of the people at loggerheads with one another. Up to the present no man has been arrested or charged with being an active member of a Sinn Fein organization. Where, therefore, was the necessity for this regulation? Was there any evidence of disloyalty, or any prospect of a rebellion being hatched? I think not. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who suggested that Mr. Hughes adopted different tactics when he belonged to the Labour party, might supply the information I seek. The Prime Minister has found reason to change his tactics, and is now looking for votes elsewhere.
It is interesting in these days of War Precautions Regulations, when attempts are being made to smother up everything and prevent honorable members from expressing their honest views before their own constituents, to find that at the seat of war, and in the very heart of the Empire-, people are allowed to make statements which, if made in this country, would quickly result in the offender being compelled to cool his heels inside of Pentridge within twenty-four hours - that is, if the present Government remains in power. I now quote from the English, Review, edited by Austin Harrison, and, presumably, censored by the military authorities in England. Mr. Harrison says -
For one thing, the Government made the fatal blunder of establishing a secret convention, thereby enabling Ulster to pursue its wellknown game of blocking, unknown to the public, unknown (I need not say) to His Majesty’s Government. The only chance of success lay in the democratic principle of publicity - we have only to refer to the astonishing moral victory of Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk to realize thatsincerity can court publicity, whereas duplicity cannot.
I wish the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) were here now, because not long ago he wanted to know whether anybody else in the world supported the views expressed by the Russian Bolsheviks, and I am quoting from one now -
The Irish question is hundreds of years old. Four years ago Home Rule was granted Ireland by law. The sole question, therefore, was the nature of the autonomy to lie given, seeing that this country and Parliament had long ago decided upon the principle which, but for Sir E. Carson and his German-rifled covenanters, would have produced a contented Ireland in 1914 - a condition which, owing to its magical effect upon America at the time, might well have led to American active intervention two years ago.
Our breach of faith over Home Rule was the greatest Imperial blunder we have ever made. It led directly to Sinn Fein, and to the disruption of Irish constitutional Nationalism, and so to the Easter rising, the reprisals, and death of Thomas Ashe. In Australia it is the Irish vote which threw down conscription.
I do not believe he is right in his deductions in regard to that matter.
– Do you deny it?
– No. I am proud to think that the Irish vote had a considerable influence on the result of the referendum which turned down conscription, but I am too modest to say that we can claim the whole credit for that result. Let me quote further from the article I refer to -
In short, the incredible shame of Ireland has reduced our pretensions of fighting for Democracy, liberty, and the right of selfdetermination to hollow fraud,
These are not my utterances. If I expressed such an opinion at Broken Hill I would be very promptly locked up.
– But what has the Prime Minister to do with all this?
– He has a lot to do with it. The writer referred to further states - and we are seen to be bankrupt, not only in statesmanship, but even in common sense, which has always been the glory of our English civilization. Englishmen, unfortunately, do not bother about Ireland. They do not know that last summer the police policy pursued in Ireland almost led to a tragedy, which might have lost us the sympathy of the world; they do not know of the conspiracy of the Anglo-Irish and Ulster influences in England to attempt conscription - which would have led to civil war; they do not know that Ulster all this time has been laughing with her tongue in her cheek, blocking, and determined to block, any settlement calculated to lessen the political power of Ulster, misused in the name of England. Yet this is so. And Englishmen will have now to devote some attention to the Irish problem if they mean to go to a peace conference with any hope of being credited with sincerity, and so will the British Government.
– But this has nothing to do with the Prime Minister.
– It has something to do with a member of this House. Speaking in the Melbourne Town Hall on the 16th April, 1914, the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) said -
Ulster had been blamed for armed resistance -
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. J. M. Chanter). Order! The honorable member will not be in order in referring to that matter. It is outside the scope of the amendment.
– Cannot I refer to the utterances of a supporter of the Government which has issued this regulation?
– I wish to be perfectly fair to the honorable member, and I desire him to thoroughly understand the rules of the House. But I have already twice called his attention to the fact that the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition limits this discussion to the actions of the Government. The action of a member supporting the Government is not under review.
– Then I shall take an opportunity at a more convenient period to deal with this question as I think it ought to be dealt with. As the rules of the House preclude me from referring to the utterances of supporters of the Government-
– I do not think that the rules of the House do that.
– Well , the Deputy Speaker has ruled in that direction.
– Did the honorable member notice any limitation upon the Prime Minister’s whirling oration?
– That does not matter very much. This regulation has been put through, although there is no organization of a disloyal or rebellious nature in Australia the existence of- which warrants its introduction, lt appears to me that it has been issued for the express purpose of stirring up national hatred and religious prejudice, with a view to turning Australia into another whirlpool of passion such as characterized the last two referendums.
Let us contrast the position here with that which obtains in Ireland. In the cables which were published in the Herald on Monday night there was one which referred to the Sinn Fein, the Irish Nationalists, and the Loyal Orange Lodge. It stated that the members of these organizations had marched in full regalia, one playing the Boyne Water, the others national airs, and all protesting against conscription being introduced into Ireland.
– That cable has not been confirmed.
– I do not care about that. To me it suggests that an amalgamation has been effected among the different forces in Ireland. However, the Postmaster-General can attend to that matter in the early hours of the morning. We have been told that Ministers here have been racking their brains in an endeavour to protect the Empire, not from the Germans, but from their political opponents. “ Protecting the Empire “ apparently means protecting Mr. Hughes and his Cabinet from the wrath to come. In Ireland, which is supposed to be so averse to British rule that it is almost in open rebellion, we find that gentlemen belonging to the same organization as the lip patriots of Australia, who rush to the Prime Minister with petitions urging that the Sinn Fein should be declared disloyal, and that Dr. Mannix should be deported, are acting in quite a different way. There, people who have been at one another’s throats for centuries are sinking their differences. They have adopted a flag to show that all past animosities have been buried/- and that between the North of Ireland Orangemen and the South or West of Ireland Catholics, there is no real difference. They have- blended the Orange and the Green by putting the white flag of peace between the two emblems. But to-day in Australia, where we are endeavouring to promote harmony amongst all sections of the community, that flag of peace has been banned by regulation. Here people are engaged in an effort to harmonize their differences by stirring up the animosities of the Old Land. I was born in Ireland, but I have no desire to see introduced into Australia the bitterness which has characterized past fights between Ireland and the British Government. Here, persons who are not natives of this country any more than I am are engaged in stirring up the animosities of past centuries with a view to making political capital out of them.
– A parson said that the raising of sectarianism was the cleverest thing done during recent times.
– In that connexion, we need only to refer to the scurrilous abuse, not merely of Catholic Irishmen, but of all Irishmen, perpetrated during the recent referendum compaign by means of cartoons and leaflets. Now the Prime Minister and his colleagues are attempting to keep these old hatreds alive. They do not desire to heal the breaches between sections of the people. Under your ruling, sir, I am not permitted to refer to the utterances of supporters of the Government; but the attitude of some of them, at least, has been made apparent by the presentation of a petition by the honorable member for Echuca.
– The honorable member need not blame the PostmasterGeneral.
– I do not. I blame somebody who is responsible.
I hope that this regulation, which, to my mind, has been framed with the object of diverting certain votes into a particular channel, will be abolished. Since the Sinn Fein organization is non-existent in Australia, the regulation will not do it much harm. It will, however, .offend the susceptibilities of Irishmen and Irishwomen, who, whatever may be their views as t6 the wisdom of the rising which took place in Dublin during Easter week - just ‘two years ago to-night - will resent such a regulation. Whatever may be the views of Irishmen as to the attitude adopted by the men who took part in that rising, they at least, as a people, respect brave men who are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the principles in which they believe. As an Irishman, I have nothing to say in condemnation of those men ; they at least died for the principles in which they believed. Men have been gaoled and starved to death in British prisons for standing up for their rights, not during the rebellion’ itself, but in. the aftermath.. Irishmen, like men of other countries, have long memories, and they cannot fail to> contrast the treatment meted out to De Wet and his followers in the Boer rebellion in South Africa with that extended to Irish rebels who took part in the rising two years ago. If Irishmen in Australia are to be brought into that frame of mind which is necessary to. secure their active co-operation in connexion with a war to preserve the rights of small nations, and to extend freedom to other countries, then such a regulation as that to- Which I have just referred ought not to-be allowed. It is not in that way that we- shall secure harmony. What is done in Australia in this regard is heralded abroad. Irishmen in America and wherever the British flag flies will know that distinctions are being made here, just as they have been made in the Old Land for hundreds of years. The authorities seem to consider, not so much what has been done, but rather by whom it has been done. If Irishmen are responsible for any matter complained of, then differential treatment is at once meted out to them. This rs the first Australian Government to adopt tactics of this kind, and now that the man responsible for all the turmoil and- disorder that has reigned in Australia since he took office as Prime Minister, is well on his way to the Old Country, the Cabinet would be well advised if they reconsidered this regulation, along with others under the War Precautions Act, and put it in tha waste-paper basket, to which it, with others, ought to have been relegated before now.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wallace) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Jensen) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to know from the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) whether the Government will take, into consideration at once the delay that is occurring in. making to returned soldiers and their dependants the payments to which they are entitled. A returned soldier, upon receiving his dis charge, gets three-fourths of his deferredpay; the payment of the balance is left over indefinitely. A returned soldier, like every other mau, likes to obtain without delay the money coming to him, but the Defence Department say that they are unable to make payment of the balances due to. these men until the- records come to hand. In the- same way, if a returned soldier while at the Front has not drawn the. full1 amount of money to which he is entitled, he is told on applying for payment here, that- the records are not to hand, and that, in their absence, the Department cannot say what it owes him, or whether he owes the Department anything.
– It generally takes eight or nine months to get out the records.
– I know of one case in which a returned soldier has been waiting for a year and seven months, and the records are not yet to hand. I do not wish ito blame the Department, but it is time the Government took action to require the British authorities to return these records concurrently with the return of the men to Australia. The delay in the return of these records crops up in connexion with quite a number of matters. The widowed mothers of soldiers who have been killed at the Front are among others who in this way are kept out of money to which they are entitled. These delays ought not to occur. The Government are ready to take drastic action in certain directions, and I think they should deal drastically with those responsible for the failure to return these papers promptly. It is not pleasant to have to refer so frequently to matters of this kind, but the complaint is general, and I hope that prompt steps will be taken to remedy it.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), on 17th January last, made a statement in this House to the effect that a speech, made- by Mr. Ryan, Pre mier of Queensland - was censored throughout Queensland, while Mr. Groom’s speech was allowed to go forth without any censorship whatever. Yet the day after the delivery of Mr. Groom’s speech the censorship of such utterances was again imposed.
The statement was so flagrantly inaccurate that I did not attempt at the time of its utterance to seriously deny it. I find, however, that it has been repeated in Queensland by Mr. Theodore. A copy of a newspaper containing the report of Mr. Theodore’s speech was sent to me, and I asked the censor for a report on the subject. His report shows that there is absolutely no justification for the allegation. No differentiation of any kind was made. From what I have ascertained, the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia was without foundation of fact; but 1 should not have drawn attention to it had itnot been that it has been repeated outside.
Mr.higgs. - I saw the instruction.
– I do not know how that can be. The censor, in his report, says -
I need hardly state that during the referendum no differentiationwas permitted.
– The matter referred toby the honorable member for Melbourne Ports(Mr. Mathews) has caused the Defence Department and the Minister controlling it considerable concern, particularly during the past few months. The difficulty of getting papers fromEngland in time to permit of the prompt payment of deferred pay has been the subject of much correspondence and cable communication with the other side of the world. The Cabinet, as late as last week, therefore requested the Minister for the Navy (Mr.Cook) whenis London to pay attention to this matter, so that if possible there might be a prompt settlement of all accounts with returned men and the widows of men who had been killed. Ihope that whatever else may happen as a result of the Ministers visit toLondon, thisdifficulty, at least, willbe removed.
– It has beenstated that a member now in London was asked to look intothis matter.
– Yes; the honorable member forCorangamite (Mr. Manifold). That was some months ago; but, so far, wehave not been able to secure the necessary reform.
Mr.tudor. - Is it not a fact that discharged men arenot able to obtain the full amount oftheir deferred pay?
– That is due to the cause that has been mentioned. I hope that the efforts of the honorablemember for Corangamite, supplemented by those of the Minister for the Navy will secure real reform.
– It is felt by the soldiers that the Government is keeping back their money.
– That may be a natural feeling, but there is no ground for it. It would please the Defence Department and the Treasury very much to discharge these obligations promptly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 April 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180424_reps_7_84/>.